Deportation Case Raises Awareness Of Proposed Immigration Law

, The Connecticut Law Tribune

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A recent stay in a deportation proceeding against two Connecticut men who are Albanian immigrants has prompted reaction from immigration lawyers in the state.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal announced he got involved in the deportation case against Valent Kolami, who owns a construction company in Prospect, and his brother-in-law and business partner, Adrian Emin, because they should never have been arrested in the first place.

The Connecticut men were detained by immigration officials in April 2012, and held in federal custody for 18 months. Blumenthal's office got involved in defending the men last year, and argued they were law-abiding business owners who should be allowed to remain in the U.S.

Michael DiRaimondo, a New York lawyer, represented the men.

As a result of efforts calling for their release, both men had their deportation orders put on hold and they were released from custody earlier this month.

"There are hundreds, if not thousands of people who at one time or another have been through detention whose lives in many ways are undistinguishable to Adrian and Valent," Blumenthal said in a statement. "They pose no threat, but they have been confined for lengthy periods of time."

Blumenthal said the case illustrates why "a comprehensive immigration reform bill is needed." Under a proposed law change, a bipartisan group of leading senators announced this summer a plan for a sweeping overhaul, including a path to citizenship for about 11 million illegal immigrants. The plan also includes a first-step provision to bolster border security, followed by a guest worker system and employer verification.

Granting illegal residents a pathway to citizenship has been deeply popular in many House Republican districts. President Barack Obama wants such a pathway. So do some prominent GOP lawmakers.

Jennifer Strait Rodriguez, an immigration lawyer in Madison and chair of the Connecticut chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers, said reforms to immigration law would make it easier for her clients who face deportation. Right now, a stay of deportation is just a delay. "It does not give a person the ability to get work authorization," she said.

Alex Meyerovich, a Bridgeport-based immigration lawyer, said he has "plenty of Albanian clients" who don't have the same kind of leverage as the two men who Blumenthal decided to help.

He has argued for similar deportation stays, which are up to the discretion of the prosecutor. The process can be challenging as an attorney, because it is sometimes difficult to tell when the government will allow a non-citizen the ability to stay in the U.S.

Even when a deportation stay is granted, the relief is temporary. "They can launch deportation proceedings at any time," Rodriguez said.

While the facts that were argued on the two men's behalf were not entirely unique, Meyerovich said, they were fortunate to have the support of Blumenthal's office. "These guys are lucky," he said. "They get their stay."

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