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Rranxburgaj Family Fight Against Deportation Goes to US District Court

DETROIT -In anticipation of a hearing for Ded Rranxburgaj, community members and leaders gathered outside of Central United Methodist church to show their support for his family. The Albanian immigrant has been holed up in the church since the beginning of 2018. He will have another chance at freedom when his case is heard in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals via video proceedings by Judges Julia Gibbons, Richard Griffin, and Amul Thapar on Wednesday.

“Ded has lived in our church for 2 and a half years,” said Rev. Dr. Jill Hardt-Zundel.  “He watched from afar as his eldest son graduated from college. Life events that should have been celebrations are tainted by the cruelty of our broken immigration system. He has been unable to leave the church because of some misguided view that he is a threat to our nation.”

Ded took sanctuary in the historic Detroit church so that he could continue to care for his wife, Flora, who suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. They have lived in a small apartment overlooking Comerica Park with their sons Eric, a US citizen, and Lorenc, a DACA recipient who graduated from the University of Michigan in Dearborn. 

“Ded is an American in all but paper,” said Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-MI 12). She said the country is divided and the broken immigration system is in need of comprehensive reform. “This today… is an humanitarian situation. Ded is taking care of Flora,” said Rep. Dingell. “Her health is not good. If he were to leave, she would probably die. This community has become her family.”

In a 2019 hearing, the Rranxburgaj's attorney, George Mann fought to revoke the label of “fugitive” that ICE gave to Ded upon entering sanctuary and argued that ICE has not done its job adjudicating the petition to stop the deportation prior to Ded taking sanctuary. He argued before U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) labeled him a fugitive and never considered his petition to stay with his wife and children on humanitarian grounds. But Judge Hood ruled that her court is not the proper venue for the case, saying “Since Rranxburgaj’s claim pertains to a final removal order, he must pursue his claim with the Court of Appeals.”

So Wednesday, the 3 judge panel will hear arguments from lawyers of case number 19-2148 in a closed, online conference. Details from the proceedings will not be immediately available to the public. In fact, Ded himself will not be able to participate. His friends hope the judges will see the futility of continuing to try to break up this family.

“How is a Coney Island cook, who is trying to care for his wife while MS is ravaging her body, a threat to homeland security?”  asked Rev. Hardt-Zundel at the rally.

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