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Cafe Gulistan owner gets reprieve from deportation to Turkey

Cafe Gulistan

An immigration judge has issued a reprieve – possibly a very long reprieve – for Ibrahim Parlak, who has been fighting deportation to Turkey for 15 years.

Parlak, a Kurd, fled Turkey 28 years ago and was granted asylum in the U.S.  He married, had a daughter, and established a popular restaurant in Harbert, Michigan, near Lake Michigan.

But in 2004, the government arrested him and began deportation proceedings, based on the fact that he did not disclose his affiliation with a Kurdish separatist group on his application for citizenship.

That's even though Parlak disclosed the affiliation on his application for asylum, years before, and even though the U.S. only categorized the separatist group as a terrorist organization after Parlak left Turkey.

Parlak came very close to being deported, despite support from former U.S. Senator Carl Levin and Congressman Fred Upton. The U.S. Supreme Court last year declined to hear an appeal of the government's final order of deportation. But an immigration judge agreed to suspend the order because political conditions in Turkey have changed, such that Parlak is at risk of imprisonment, torture, and death if deported.

Parlak says he's mindful of all the other immigrants facing deportation to countries where they could be in grave danger.

"I feel I am the fortunate one who had the chance and opportunity and all the support to carry me through the difficult times," Parlak says, "and I'm thankful."

Congressman Upton, in a press release, calls Parlak "a model immigrant."

We've always supported Ibrahim because we know who he truly is: A fantastic father, local business owner, and friend to many families here in Southwest Michigan.

Parlak could still be deported to Turkey – but only if conditions change so dramatically that he would be safe there.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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