Blumenthal helps win freedom for immigrants

2
17

Valent Kolami speaks to reporters Nov. 4 five days after U.S. immigration authorities released him from a federal detention center as his wife, Gentiana, watches. The undocumented Albanian immigrant spent 18 months in detention. His brother-in-law and business partner, Adrian Emin, spent 16 months in detention. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) helped secure stays of deportation for the two Prospect residents. –RA ARCHIVE
Valent Kolami speaks to reporters Nov. 4 five days after U.S. immigration authorities released him from a federal detention center as his wife, Gentiana, watches. The undocumented Albanian immigrant spent 18 months in detention. His brother-in-law and business partner, Adrian Emin, spent 16 months in detention. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) helped secure stays of deportation for the two Prospect residents. –RA ARCHIVE

HARTFORD — The painfully fresh memory of the 18 months that Valent Kolami spent away from his family in federal detention awaiting deportation is etched in the worry lines on his face.

Emotion sometimes overwhelmed Kolami as he recounted his story Monday, five days after he was released from the Etowah Dentention Center in Alabama with the help of U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

Kolami had been held since immigration authorities detained him on April 24, 2012, along with his brother-in-law and business partner Adrian Emin. The senator’s office helped secure Emin’s release on Aug. 16.

Both Emin and Kolami received stays of deportation; their immigration status must be renewed after one year.

Blumenthal is using the pair’s story to make an argument for immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in the same predicament as Emin and Kolami.

“We hope something is going to happen with the immigration reform, not just for us, for everybody who is illegal and who want to stay in America legal. We want to come out from the shadow. We want to live like everybody in America. We want to build our life, build our kids’ life the better we can,” Kolami said.

Emin, 45, and Kolami, 42, had settled in Prospect after coming to the United States from Albania 13 years ago. The two men had visas, but remained in the country after they expired and built new lives here.

“We come to America for better life for ourselves and for our kids, and we tried to build our life by the law of this country. We start work. We started building our lives. We working very hard and it looked like the American dream was true for us,” Kolami said.

He blamed a former immigration lawyer for much of their troubles.

Emin and Kolami came to the country in November 2003. They immediately hired a lawyer to seek asylum to remain in the country. After the petition was denied, they hired a second lawyer to appeal while they continued to live in Prospect, raise their families and run a masonry business.

The two men alleged in federal court documents that the second lawyer mishandled the case and misled them into believing that their appeal was still pending after it had been dismissed. In fact, they had been ordered to leave the country in 2004.

They have since filed a grievance against that lawyer, according to court filings.

“We never know we have an order of deportation,” Kolami said.

They were surprised to learn otherwise when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement informed them of the 2004 deportation order last year. Initially, ICE agreed not to detain them, but then reversed that decision.

Kolami and Emin’s older children and their new lawyer contacted Blumenthal’s office asking for help.

Blumenthal argued that the two men should never have been detained based on their backgrounds.

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

Blumenthal called such treatment “unAmerican.” He said it should not have taken 16 to 18 months for Kolami and Emin to be released from detention.

“I don’t want nobody to happen what happened to us,” Kolami said.

Blumenthal said Kolami and Emin’s case makes a powerful argument for immigration reform. However, he declined to make any predictions about the prospects of Congress passing comprehensive legislation.

“If you listen to these stories, if you hear these voices, you conclude that the United States of America is better than to treat people this way. We are better than to lock up folks who come to this country simply pursing the American dream and to detain them for 16 to 18 months,” Blumenthal said.

2 COMMENTS

  1. There is clearly a need for immigration reform in our country, but one can’t compare and contrast the people who came to our country via Ellis Island and the immigrants of today without having the discussion about the differences between melting pots and mosaics. If you don’t agree, oprima numero dos.

  2. Let’s face it, this immigration thing is a 20th century issue that has slopped over into the 21st century. The time has come to finally resolve it in an intelligent fashion, as three-fourths of Americans favor and Obama confronts head-on. A new award-winning worldwide book/ebook that helps explain the role, struggles, and contributions of immigrants and minorities is “What Foreigners Need To Know About America From A To Z: How to Understand Crazy American Culture, People, Government, Business, Language and More.” It paints a revealing picture of America for anyone who will benefit from a better understanding. Endorsed by ambassadors, educators, and editors, it also informs those who want to learn more about the last remaining superpower and how we compare to other nations on many issues.
    As the book points out, immigrants and minorities are a major force in America. Immigrants and the children they bear account for 60 percent of our nation’s population growth and own 11 percent of US businesses and are 60 percent more likely to start a new business than native-born Americans. They represent 17 percent of all new business owners (in some states more than 30 percent). Foreign-born business owners generate nearly one-quarter of all business income in California and nearly one-fifth in New York, Florida, and New Jersey. In fact, forty percent of Fortune 500 companies were started by an immigrant or a child of an immigrant, creating 10 million jobs and seven out of ten top brands in our country.
    More importantly, they come to improve their lives and create a foundation of success for their children to build upon, as did the author’s grandparents when they landed at Ellis Island in 1899 after losing 2 children to disease on a cramped cattle car-like sailing from Europe to the Land of Opportunity. Many bring skills and a willingness to work hard to make their dreams a reality, something our founders did four hundred years ago. In describing America, chapter after chapter chronicles “foreigners” who became successful in the US and contributed to our society. However, most struggle in their efforts and need guidance in Anytown, USA. Perhaps intelligent immigration reform, White House/Congress and business/labor cooperation, concerned citizens and books like this can extend a helping hand, the same unwavering hand that has been the anchor and lighthouse of American values for four hundred years.
    Here’s a closing quote from the book’s Intro: “With all of our cultural differences though, you’ll be surprised to learn how much…we as human beings have in common on this little third rock from the sun. After all, the song played at our Disneyland parks around the world is ‘It’s A Small World After All.’ Peace.”