THE LETTERS of concern and offers of help continue to pile up, but Bistro Antalya is still closed. The Capitol Hill sandwich shop’s owner, Bulent Ertur, detained by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) since mid-April for a green-card violation, remains where he was when the lights went out just over six weeks ago: stuck in a jail cell in Forks, Wash., waiting for the INS to release him on bond and hold a hearing on his appeal.
Ertur, a Turkish native whose legal residence is in Germany, was picked up on April 5 by the INS at his restaurant, which operated out of a corner of the Broadway Grocery minimart. Since then, the three-stool sandwich counter, which served Turkish specialties like doner kebap and homemade zucchini pancakes, has been dark and still; a sign—”Bulent Ertur Turkish disappeared 4/5/02″—is the only indication of what happened to its ebullient owner.
The story, according to Ertur’s niece Chidem Cherrier, is that Ertur’s application for a green card was denied earlier this year; although his attorney had filed an appeal, the INS rejected it because it wasn’t filed on time. Because of this oversight, Cherrier says, the restaurateur was supposed to leave the country within 60 days of the denial. She claims that the INS sent the denial notice to the wrong address, and Ertur never received the letter. According to Cherrier, Ertur never heard another word from the feds until INS officers took him away just before the lunchtime rush.
But there may be some good news. According to his new attorney, Carol Edward—lawyer No. 3—Ertur could be released on bond within days and allowed to return to his restaurant, which has been sitting empty and costing him thousands during his detention. “All his monthly bills are arriving, and there is no revenue,” Cherrier says. Release from jail would allow Ertur the option of either selling the restaurant or continuing to operate it. Then, Edward says, she and Ertur can sit down and “thoroughly assess any and all options he has in terms of immigration,” including filing a new appeal.
Erica C. Barnett