After Three Decades Michigan Chef Faces Day of Deportation Reckoning

A native Kurd who started a cafe and has lived quietly for almost 30 years in Michigan faces possible immediate deportation. The U.S. says Ibrahim Parlak lied on a form and was part of a group now reclassified as terrorists.

Photo of the Theodore Levin United States Courthouse.

The three-decade odyssey of a quiet Michigan chef slated for deportation, one who faces likely torture or death if removed from the U.S., comes to a head Monday morning at an immigration court in Detroit.

Chef Ibrahim Parlak came to Michigan almost 30 years ago after getting out of prison in Turkey, where he was charged with fighting against that country.

Parlak, a native Kurd, started a restaurant in the resort town of Harbert in 1994.

But after the 9/11 attacks the U.S. reclassified a group Parlak was associated with that targeted Turkey as a terrorist organization.

They also argued he’d lied on a U.S. government form about being in prison in that country.

Parlak countered that he thought he was answering a question about whether he’d served time in the U.S, where he’s lived peacefully without incident for decades.

Officials still ordered him deported and he was put in a U.S. prison for 10 months.


“This is America. I lived by the rules of the land (all) those years I’ve been here. They cannot show single thing against me since I been here.” – Ibrahim Parlak 


People in the town of Harbert rallied on behalf of Parlak.

They created a legal defense fund for him, filling its coffers by selling items including “Free Ibrahim” coffee.

He was eventually released, even as the U.S. still pushed to remove him.

Parlak says he’s lived for a decade since under the constant threat of deportation.

“Nobody should be in a situation like that. After all that’s America. I lived by the rules of the land all those years I’ve been here. They cannot show single thing against me since I been here. Whatever happened in Turkey, (this is) not right,” Parlak says.

He faces a Monday immigration hearing in Detroit that will determine whether he stays or goes.

Michigan members of Congress including U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) had introduced legislation each year to keep Parlak in the U.S.

But Levin retired and Michigan’s current U.S. senators have refused to follow his lead regarding the Kurdish chef.

Parlak says if he loses his case in immigration court the government could remove him immediately.

He says his deportation travel orders have already been set.


Click on the audio link above to hear the full conversation with Ibrahim Parlak


  • Quinn Klinefelter
    Quinn Klinefelter is a Senior News Editor at 101.9 WDET. In 1996, he was literally on top of the news when he interviewed then-Senator Bob Dole about his presidential campaign and stepped on his feet.