By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
HARBERT — About a year ago, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton sat beside Ibrahim Parlak at a table in Cafe Gulistan and proclaimed he would introduce legislation to help keep the Turkey native in the United States.
On Thursday, Upton announced he was reintroducing private legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to support Parlak in his efforts to stay. However, there is no support for the legislation among Michigan’s U.S. senators.
Upton, R-St. Joseph, has introduced similar private legislation to Congress each year dating to 2005.
The bill is meant to provide Parlak with permanent legal residency status, which would allow him to stay in Michigan and run his business without fearing deportation.
“Ibrahim is a model immigrant and should be allowed to stay here in America where he has raised a family, runs a successful small business, and has become part of the fabric of our community,” Upton said in a news release. “This latest action is meant to be a back-stop against any potential action as Ibrahim’s case is rightfully re-examined by an immigration judge.”
In August, the U.S Board of Immigration granted Parlak a motion to reopen his case to have his Convention Against Torture affidavit reviewed by an immigration judge.
Since his case was reopened, the 2004 order to remove him from the country is no longer final and Parlak is considered to be safe from deportation until the issue is resolved.
Parlak’s original request for relief through CAT was denied in 2005 on the basis that Turkey’s treatment of the Kurdish people was improving as the nation pursued reforms to become a member of the European Union.
Now Parlak’s plea for asylum will be heard with new evidence of the rising threats to the Kurdish people in Turkey.
Upton’s private legislation has protected Parlak from deportation over the years by placing his case in deferral while the legislation awaits consideration in Congress.
However, since former Sen. Carl Levin retired, no Michigan senator has sponsored the private legislation.
Upton spokesman Tom Wilbur confirmed that the St. Joseph representative had reached out to Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow about sponsoring the legislation in 2017, to no avail.
Peters and Stabenow have sent letters in support of Parlak in the past, but previously explained they don’t sponsor private legislation to avoid setting any precedents.
Parlak came to the U.S. in 1991. In his initial asylum application, Parlak disclosed that while associated with a Turkish separatist organization in the late 1980s – called the Kurdistan Workers Party – he had been involved in an armed skirmish at the Turkish border and had been imprisoned in Turkey.
In 1992, the Immigration and Naturalization Service determined Parlak had a credible fear of returning to Turkey, and granted him asylum.
DHS later stepped in and said Parlak did not disclose he was arrested in another country in his application for permanent U.S. residency. They labeled him a potential terrorist and began efforts to deport him, setting off a more than decade-long public skirmish over his plight.
Through the years, Parlak’s lawyers have insisted that his 1991 application for asylum set forth in great detail his past association with the PKK and maintain he has been a model immigrant and business owner for years.
Robert Carpenter, who serves as Parlak’s attorney, said his client’s case will be heard sometime this spring for an initial hearing. Then there will be a full-day hearing, which won’t likely be in 2017. Carpenter acknowledged Upton’s legislation and said they are appreciative of the support.
“It’s been a vital safety net in the past,” Carpenter said in reference to the legislation. “While Ibrahim doesn’t face deportation while the case is open, (the legislation) could be useful in ways that are unforeseen.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Jan. 13, 2017)