Ibrahim arrested in Turkey, tortured, imprisoned for "crime" of separatism Ibrahim immigrates to U.S. in poor health, knowing no English U.S. Dept. of Justice grants Ibrahim political asylum Ibrahim opens Café Gulistan in Harbert, MI Ibrahim applies for U.S. citizenship U.S. rejects Ibrahim's application for citizenship Ibrahim arrested, accused of making false statement on application for U.S. citizenship - Outraged community rallies to his defense - Immigration Court rules that he is deportable Ibrahim released from jail on writ of habeus corpus, granted by Judge Avern Cohn, after 10 months imprisonment Oral Arguments for Appeal of Immigration Court ruling, held in Sixth Circuit Court, Cincinnati 3-judge panel of Sixth Circuit Court rejects Ibrahim's appeal with 2 to 1 split decision U.S. Supreme Court refuses to hear Ibrahim's appeal of Sixth Circuit Court decision - DHS says Ibrahim won't be deported in next 2 years Path to citizenship or Passport to another country?

"This is more than a Harbert story. This is a national story. We are a nation of immigrants."
U.S. Representative Fred Upton (Michigan's 6th Congressional District - 8/30/2009)


 Give him Liberty or set him Free!

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This is a story of the American Dream turned into a nightmare.
Ibrahim Parlak, a Kurd who immigrated to the U.S. from Turkey, is the Southwest Michigan restaurateur who was incarcerated as an alien detainee in the Calhoun County Jail for 10 months. He has committed no crime in America, and was only charged with the crime of "separatism" in Turkey for standing up for the rights of Kurdish people to live in freedom and dignity. For this so-called crime he was tortured for a month in a Turkish jail and imprisoned for 18 months.

See below for a timeline of Ibrahim's experiences since the late 1980's leading up to today.

After the tragic occurences of September 11, 2001 Ibrahim, who had applied for U.S. citizenship in 1999, had his application denied. This was in November, 2001. In 2004, during a routine visit to the F.B.I. offices in St. Joseph, MI (where government officials had previously attempted to convince him to return to the Mideast as a U.S. agent), Ibrahim was arrested by the Department of Homeland Security and jailed in Calhoun County jail, Battle Creek, MI. An immigration judge ruled him deportable to Turkey, where his life would be in jeopardy.

Ibrahim was granted political asylum in 1992 by the United States Department of Justice, based on a well-founded fear of persecution. In 2004 the government rescinded that protection.

Upon his arrest, Ibrahim's family and friends, understandably outraged, banded together to find ways to get him released from jail and to prepare a legal defense strategy.  The Honorable Judge Avern Cohn granted our petition for Habeas Corpus May 20th, 2005 and on June 3rd, 2005 Ibrahim was finally released from jail. Since then he has been fighting deportation through the court system.

This journey through the courts has ended recently with the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to hear his appeal of the split decision handed down by the Sixth Circuit Court.

In May, 2010, Secretary Napolitano of DHS, responding to the urging of Sen. Levin and Rep. Upton to drop the case against Ibrahim, notified Ibrahim's attorneys that DHS will not seek to deport Ibrahim for two years.

Although this may sound like good news, it changes nothing, as the private bills before Congress sponsored by Sen. Levin and Rep. Upton achieve essentially the same result: he cannot be deported while those bills are pending. Ibrahim is still required to report to DHS on a regular basis. He must tell them if he is leaving Michigan and tell them when he returns. If he so much as gets two traffic violations he can be arrested and imprisoned. There is no documentation, other than the email from DHS, of this 'promise' to not deport him for two years and the 'conditions' he must comply with have not been clearly defined nor documented. In short, nothing has changed for him.

For six long years Ibrahim has been dealing with this situation. He is tired, disillusioned, and wonders what happened to the American Dream he was living. He is at the point where he wants this to end - one way or another. Either let him live as an American or give him a passport so he can emigrate and find a country where he can live the life he thought he had here.

For those of us who have stood with him throughout this ordeal it would be a shame if our country would let him go elsewhere, and we would miss him dearly. At the same time we fully empathize with his frustration.

Live up to your promise America! Ibrahim Parlak has been the ideal immigrant. He has brought life and energy and jobs to us. He has broken no laws in almost 20 years living here. He has contributed hugely to make this part of America a better place. He has helped those less fortunate than him. It would be a shame to lose him.

(Move cursor over a date for a brief description of events)

In our website you may read legal briefs filed by the government and by Ibrahim's lawyers, articles on the human rights situation of Kurds in Turkey, letters written to our representatives, affidavits written by members of Ibrahim's community, and articles and editorials written by journalists about his situation. You will be introduced to books and films about the Kurds and Kurdistan, which will present a story of the people Ibrahim wished to represent in his work as a Kurdish activist. You may contact his friends with questions, offers or concerns.

We welcome you to this site, and hope one day you will be able to meet Ibrahim in the kitchen of his restaurant, where he would greet you warmly as a guest.

Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune columnist, writes about Ibrahim in his Sidewalks page. Click here to read the text of his article.

A crowd of loyal supporters listens to Ibrahim Parlak as he updates them on the latest development of his residency status.
Photo by Charles Osgood

Geof Stone, University of Chicago Professor and Barack Obama colleague writes article in Huffington Post in support of Ibrahim. Click here to read the text of his post.

Michigan State Senator Ron Jelinek introduces resolution before the State Senate urging the US Congress to grant Ibrahim permanent residency.
The resolution was introduced to the Appropriations Committee, which Sen. Jelinek chairs, on June 23rd, 2010. Ibrahim was invited to address the committee, as was Livia's uncle, Paul Gazzolo. Statements by Dan Coffey, Marty Goldrick, Livia, and Willis Noel Brown were also included in the record, which notes the names of the others in attendance in support of the resolution. Anne Buckleitner, a member of the legal team, assisted during the questioning period. The resolution passed in the committee 17 - 0 with one abstention. On July 8th the full Senate passed the resolution. Click
here to read the resolution, Ibrahim's statement, etc.

Thousands sign petitions/affidavits in support of Ibrahim. 
While Ibrahim was in prison over 200 personal affidavits were written and signed by supporters. A petition was circulated and over 2,000 signatures were gathered in support.
In the fall of 2009 a letter-writing campaign and on-line petition was started called "1,000 Signatures in 100 Days" In less than 100 days over 3,000 signatures and letters were accumulated. Click
here to read the petition text.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, reintroduced bills in the Senate and House in February, 2009 that would give Ibrahim permanent U.S. residency. These bills were originally introduced in December 2005, but there was no action taken during the previous sessions of Congress.
Read more.

Thank you very much Congressman Upton and Senator Levin.


"The manner in which Ibrahim Parlak's case has proceeded, or rather escalated, raises suspicion as to the actions of ICE under the circumstances. Once Petitioner was labeled a terrorist, the proceedings took on a decidedly more complex, if not high-profile, aura." - Judge Avern Cohn

"He's been a very good citizen for over a decade now," said Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan). " He has proven the fact that he is a peaceful citizen -- a model citizen. I'm deeply concerned by this matter. I think the result thus far has been unjust, not only to Mr. Parlak, but also to who we are and what we are as a country."

Ibrahim comes home from jail

"Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves."
Abraham Lincoln