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Albanian family granted asylum after cooperating, years of legal battles

By David Fitzpatrick and Gary Tuchman
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Mon May 14, 2012
Edmond Demiraj and his family faced deportation even after he agreed to testify in a human trafficking case.
Edmond Demiraj and his family faced deportation even after he agreed to testify in a human trafficking case.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Justice Department wanted his testimony in human trafficking case that never occurred
  • Edmond Demiraj says family was promised protection, Green Card in return
  • Department of Justice lawyers told courts that Demiraj family should be deported

Washington (CNN) -- The Department of Homeland Security has granted asylum to an Albanian immigrant, his wife and teenage son after a years-long deportation battle.

According to a letter from the Department of Homeland Security, Edmond and Rudina Demiraj and their teenage son, Rediol, were all granted asylum "for an indefinite period." The letter also said that asylum status for each person may be terminated if the family "no longer has a well founded fear of persecution because of a fundamental change in circumstances."

CNN first reported on the Demiraj case last fall. The Department of Justice was then threatening to deport the family to Albania even after Edmond Demiraj promised to testify in a human trafficking case.

Attorneys for the Justice Department based in Houston wanted Demiraj's testimony in a prosecution against fellow Albanian immigrant Bill Bedini. In exchange for his willingness to testify, Demiraj told CNN that prosecutors promised protection for him and his family. They also promised them Green Cards, he said. That offer, Demiraj said, was verbal and never committed to writing.

The trial never took place because Bedini fled to Albania after entering a plea of not guilty, according to the U.S. Marshal's office in Houston. When prosecutors didn't need Demiraj's testimony, they handed him over to immigration officials, who promptly deported him.

2011: Family faces deportation

Within a few weeks back in his native Albania, Demiraj says, Bedini tried to kill him. Demiraj says only luck saved him. He was wounded in the attack and eventually returned to the United States, entering illegally through Mexico. He spent seven months in an immigration jail before being allowed to remain in the U.S. on temporary status.

In the intervening years, lawyers for the Department of Justice told a succession of courts that Demiraj and his family should be deported, even though they said they feared for their lives.

At one point, Josh Rosenkranz, an attorney for Demiraj, told CNN that the deportation proceedings were a "shameful display of how the U.S. government will use people who they need to keep us safe and then cavalierly discard them when they are no longer of use to them."

"We are extremely happy for the Demiraj family," Rosenkranz said in a statement. "All along, they have wanted to live the American dream legally and safely."

When asked about the case, a Department of Justice spokesman told CNN that it was not responsible for asylum decisions although the DOJ later pointed out that its Executive Office for Immigration Review administers the courts that deal with asylum claims from international residents who are in the country illegally, like the Demirajs.

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