Immigration Law

US Seeks to Deport Wife, Son of Man It Agreed to Protect

A decade ago, Edmond Demiraj, an Albanian citizen who was in this country illegally, made a deal with the federal government: Testify against an Albanian mobster charged with human smuggling, and he and his family would be protected.

But the mobster was allowed to post bail and fled the country for Albania. And the government, having no more use for Demiraj, deported him back to Albania, where he was kidnapped, beaten and shot by the mobster he was supposed to testify against.

The mobster didn’t just exact his revenge on Demiraj, either. He kidnapped two of Demiraj’s nieces and forced them to become prostitutes in Italy.

Fast forward 10 years: Demiraj, who survived, and his nieces, who also escaped with their lives, are now legally living in this country. But the government is trying to deport Demiraj’s wife, Rodina, and his teenage son, Rediol, who are both here illegally, back to Albania.

This Kafkaesque story, recounted in Adam Liptak’s New York Times Sidebar column, doesn’t end there.

Last December, the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the denial of Demiraj’s wife and son’s bid for asylum, saying they don’t qualify under the law, which says asylum may be granted when an alien fears persecution “on account” of family membership.

The case is likely headed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Supporting briefs on the Demirajs’ behalf have come from human rights groups, law professors and some 40 former federal law enforcement officials, including former attorney general Dick Thornburgh and former FBI director William S. Sessions.

The family’s lawyers say they have more than the law on their side.

“Instead of rewarding Mr. Demiraj for risking his life to protect us from a ruthless gangster, the government delivers his family right into the gangster’s clutches,” E. Joshua Rosenkranz, one of the family’s lawyers, told Liptak. “It’s immoral and illegal. But it’s also reckless. If that is how we treat our friends, pretty soon we won’t have any friends left to protect us.”

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