The case of Ashraf Al-Jailani of Kent, Ohio, and his deportation from the U.S. in December 2005 at first appears to be a Gordian knot impossible to untangle. Listening solely to the long line of organizations that latched onto his cause to hype their own respective political agendas, reading the plethora of articles and editorials by the establishment media, including the New York Times, which pleaded for Al-Jailani’s release, and dismissing his reported ties to al-Qaeda operatives, it would not be unreasonable to empathize with Ashraf Al-Jailani, his wife Michele Swensen, and their three children for their long ordeal.
The crushing reality, however, is that all of the legal maneuvers, media advocacy, and political grandstanding surrounding Al-Jailani’s case were predicated on a lie. And the Gordian knot of the matter is rent asunder by the inescapable truth that the three most innocent and helpless victims in this story, Amina (12), Layla (10), and Sami (8) Al-Jailani, are now imprisoned under their father’s control in Yemen — the very man that had served as the anti-Patriot Act poster boy. Adding to this tragedy is the fact that the same parties who championed Ashraf Al-Jailani’s cause are nowhere to be found concerning the ongoing plight of the abducted Al-Jailani children.
Before his deportation, Ashraf Al-Jailani and his family were a national cause célèbre, with numerous fundraisers, benefit concerts, and “days of remembrance” sponsored by his local mosque all held on his behalf. A local Akron band, Katie Daley and the Detainees, even composed and performed a song, “The Ballad of Ashraf Al-Jailani”, which failed to crack the Billboard Top 100 (no doubt, also the victim of a Bush administration conspiracy).
His saga was the subject of a New York Times editorial by Anthony Lewis, a report by the BBC, and a successful petition effort lobbying for a pardon of Al-Jailani from Ohio Governor Bob Taft. Many prominent Ohio newspapers, particularly the Akron Beacon Journal, published scathing editorials decrying his treatment at the hands of the U.S. government.
Many of the usual suspects also flocked to Al-Jailani’s cause, including the ACLU, CAIR, the Muslim Students Association, Human Rights Watch, Marxist academics, hard-line “anti-war” groups, pro-immigration networks, and 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Not only did he cut the perfect profile for their respective causes and serve as a rallying cry for political mobilization, they were able to raise a lot of money off of the Al-Jailani family’s plight. A whole lot of money.
Those organizations have all now fallen silent, rapidly turning agnostic on the matter of Ashraf Al-Jailani. There are no rallies, fundraisers, benefit concerts, prayer services, petition drives, or angry New York Times and Akron Beacon Journal editorials for the abducted Al-Jailani children — all U.S. citizens — just entries for Amina, Layla, and Sami on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website.
There were warning signs over the past decade that provide evidence that this situation was a wholly preventable tragedy. It was a 1999 conviction of Ashraf Al-Jailani on domestic abuse charges that originally initiated the deportation proceedings before 9/11 and the passage of the Patriot Act, establishing his history of violence. And it was a law signed by President Bill Clinton, the 1996 Illegal Immigration Reform Act, not a Bush administration edict, which was the ground for his deportation. When he pled guilty, the judge informed him that his conviction would make him subject to deportation, which he acknowledged. An immigration judge ordered him deported in September 1999 — two years before 9/11. Additional evidence of violence in the home would emerge during his later immigration hearings.
After 9/11, authorities began taking a much closer look at Al-Jailani and took him into custody in October 2002 after he had made calls to a known al-Qaeda operative and his business card and other information were found in the possession of another terrorism suspect arrested in Chicago. According to testimony in his deportation trial, Ashraf Al-Jailani was the subject of a federal grand jury investigation opened by the Cleveland U.S. attorney’s office looking into his terror connections. An FBI agent testifying in court described Al-Jailani as an al-Qaeda “first-stringer” and “a monumental threat to the community, particularly to the Jewish community”.