By Mariano Cardoso:
Imagine giving your life to protect your family and the country you love, only to be betrayed by your country, which is trying its level best to split your family apart.
That’s what happened to one Albanian refugee. Federal court judges gravely mishandled the asylum case for Edmond Demiraj, who is currently living lawfully here in Texas.
But all is not well. His wife and eldest son face imminent deportation.
About a decade ago, a federal prosecutor in Texas asked Edmond Demiraj to testify against an Albanian mobster. Mr. Demiraj was to provide crucial testimony in a case against Bill Bedini, a notorious human smuggler. Mr. Demiraj was made a deal that he could not turn down, especially since the prosecutor had leverage. According to Adam Liptak at the New York Times, who broke the story:
Mr. Demiraj, an Albanian citizen, was an undocumented immigrant living in the United States.
A deal was made. In exchange for his testimony, he and his family would be kept safe.
But Mr. Bedini, who was in police custody, posted bail and promptly fled to Albania. No longer in need of him, Mr. Demiraj was disposed of and deported to Albania days after.
The following part of his story (as told in the New York Times) is as if it’s straight out of a horror movie, where the victim finds himself completely outta luck, and his situation only worsens as the climax draws near:
As Mr. Demoraj returned to Albania, Mr. Bedini was anxiously waiting for his arrival. He kidnapped, beat and shot Mr. Demiraj, the bullet just missing his kidneys.
But that was only just part of the retribution:
Mr. Bedini also went after members of Mr. Demiraj’s family, kidnapping two of his nieces and forcing them into prostitution. “This was payback to your Uncle Edmond for when I was in the United States,” he said as he beat the women, who were 19 and 21.
These explicit details of the crime are recorded in a recent federal appeals court decision. The conclusion, issued in January, contained some good news: Mr. Demiraj survived the shooting, and his nieces escaped thanks to “sheer luck and a kind taxi driver.” All three are now living here, where Demiraj owns a painting business not far from Houston.
The story should have just ended there, but this would not be like a horror movie if it had a happy ending. Federal authorities are now trying to deport Demiraj’s wife and eldest son, as if Demiraj’s near death experience and the forced-prostitution of his nieces is not enough proof that his family faces some serious threats in Albania. Authorities persist even though an ICE memo issued this year by ICE Director, John Morton, requires that agents use “maximum exercise of discretion in removal cases involving crime victims, witnesses to crimes, and individuals pursuing civil rights and liberties cases.” The New York Times reports:
“Bill Bedini is a dangerous person,” Mr. Demiraj said on the phone the other day, in halting English. “For sure he’s going to kill my son. My wife, maybe he’s going to kill her and maybe he’s going to send her to prostitution.”
The administration consistently has its deportation priorities out of whack, but this is going too far. A man risked his life to do right by his country. His country promises him refuge, then deports him, only to eventually provide him with refuge while trying to split his family apart. Where is the justice? As his lawyer notes:
“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,” said E. Joshua Rosenkranz, a lawyer with Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe, which represents the family. “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.”