Mom-of-three deported to Albania after 18-year struggle to stay in U.S.
EXCLUSIVE: 'My daughter is writing to Melania for help.' Mom-of-three deported to Albania after 18-year struggle to stay in U.S. tells of agony - but admits she came on fake passport and lied that her marriage was over
- Cile Precetaj was deported from Detroit, Michigan, after 18 years in the country
- The married mother of three returned to her home country of Albania last week
- Cile fled Albania in 2000 after living in fear of her life when her best friend was forced into prostitution and ended up being killed
- Unable to get a US visa, she entered the country through Canada on a false Italian passport using the name Laura Firmini
- Cile sought asylum in the US in 2000, claiming criminals would kidnap her and turn her in to a prostitute if she stayed in Abania
- Cile contacted immigration officers months after arriving and claimed asylum
- Her asylum status was denied by the government, but she avoided deportation in 2005 and has since filed several appeals to stay
- Her husband, Pete Gojcaj, is a Yugoslavian immigrant who has lived in the US for 30 years, but his green card was revoked after he was jailed for three years
- He says they were not given a chance to say goodbye and he was only notified that she was removed when she landed in Germany on her way to Albania
A married mother of three deported from the U.S. after 18 years wept as she spoke of the heartache and devastation at being torn away from her young children.Cile Precetaj faces rebuilding her life after being sent back to her native Albania for being in the country illegally.The 46-year-old, who has no criminal record and helped run a successful restaurant business in Michigan with her husband, was deported after an almost two decades long legal fight.
Immigration authorities ruled she had exhausted all legal means to stay in the country she calls home and is desperate to return to.
Cile Precetaj, of Sterling Heights, Michigan, faces rebuilding her life in her native Albania after being deported from the United States following an 18-year fight to stay in the country
The 46-year-old, who has no criminal record and helped run a successful restaurant business in Michigan with her husband, was deported to Albania last week
Pete says his family (Cile & Pete with their three American born children, pictured) was unable to say goodbye to Cile before she was deported as he says they were not notified she was being removed
'I am still in a state of shock and can't believe I am back in a country where I was afraid to live,' Cile exclusively told MailOnline.
'My three children are thousands of miles away and I do not know when I will ever see them again. How can a country tear a mother away from her children? How can they do that?
'President Trump's wife Melania came to America as an immigrant and the country is built on immigrants. Why would they do this to a mother who loves the country and has done nothing wrong? I came to American like so many immigrants for a better life.'
Cile said she has not stopped crying since arriving back in a country she left in 2000 in fear of her life.
She said: 'I sleep about two hours a night because I wake up and think about my children and how they must feel.
'I have never been apart from them, not a single day and now I am here thousands of miles away. My life and that of my children had been turned upside down.'
MailOnline tracked down Cile to a remote hillside village called Gradec, about three hours drive from the Albanian capital Tirana.
She has only been back in the village where she grew up a matter of days since being deported from her home in a suburb Detroit, Michigan.
Such was the abruptness of her departure she did not get the chance to say farewell to her husband Pete Gojcaj and three children, 16-year-old Marash, ten-year-old Megan and eight year old Martini.
The first they knew she had been deported was in a brief telephone call during a stopover in Germany on her way back to Albania last week.
She is staying in her cousin's home close to the border with Montenegro in a house a world away from the life of comfort she knew in Michigan.
Apart from the emotional trauma of leaving her children behind she has also left a comfortable life of a middle class American. Her new home has no running water, the toilet is a hole in the ground in an outbuilding and there are frequent power outages
Cile is staying at her uncle's home in Gradec, Albania. The only toilet on the property is in an outhouse, and she collects water from a pipe outside, which she then has to boil in order to drink and clean with it
Gradec is a small hillside village about three hours drive from the Albanian capital Tirana. There are approximately 700 residents
Her new home's bathroom, pictured above, is an outhouse. Instead of a toilet bowl, there is a hole in the ground with the toilet paper on a wooden plank nearby
After 18 years in America her only possessions are those she could cram into two small suitcases.
Her most treasured possession is scarf that contains the stars and stripes.
'I wear it all the time as it still makes me feel American,' said Cile.
The only consolation on being wrenched from her children is being reunited with her parents and sister Lilljana for the first time in almost two decades.
'Having my family here and being with them for the first time in 18 years is all that is keeping me going,' said Cile.
'Whenever I think about my children it just breaks my heart. I do not know what is going to happen and when I will ever see them again. I am pretty certain I can never go back to America unless they change their minds or there is some miracle.'
Apart from the emotional trauma of leaving her children behind she has also left the comfortable life of a middle class American.
Her new home has no running water, the toilet is a hole in the ground in an outbuilding and there are frequent power outages.
She lives in a dingy bedroom with giant cracks in the ceiling and a single metal framed single bed.
There is no TV, cell phone service is patchy and - what scares her most of all - no locks on the doors.
The village is so isolated there isn't a single shop and the streets do not have any names.
Her home is reached down a half-mile gravel track with a pair of metal recycling bins on the main road used as the waypoint for visitors to turn off.
Almost all of the 700 residents are retired and live on benefits of $100 a month.
'I left here in 2000 because I was scared and did not feel safe,' she said. 'I've only been here a few days and I do not feel safe.
Cile Precetaj, pictured with her husband Pete Gojcaj, was arrested during a regular visit to the ICE office in Detroit on April 26
Cile gave an interview before she was deported asking for people to pray for her and her family
'When I sit here and think about what has taken placed it is like I am having an out of body experience. I know I am here, but I don't want to believe it.'
Like many people who come to America illegally, Cile's case is complicated.
She said she fled Albania in 2000 after living in fear of her life when her best friend was forced into prostitution and ended up being killed. She was also afraid of an ex-fiancé who had threatened violence after their break up.
Unable to get a US visa, she entered the country through Canada on a false Italian passport using the name Laura Firmini.
She did not speak a word of English and stayed with a family friend as she tried to come to grips with living in a foreign country.
'I was scared to live in Albania but America was so different and I was scared and homesick too,' she said.
Cile contacted immigration authorities within months of arriving and claimed asylum.
Three years later she was told to leave the country after her application for asylum was rejected when a court failed to be convinced by her claims of living in fear.
Cile appealed against deportation and the immigration authorities allowed her stay while she exhausted all legal ways to remain in the United States.
While pregnant with her daughter Megan she was told she was under supervision and had to report to an immigration office each month.
During this time Cile helped her husband, a Yugoslav immigrant who had lived in the United States since he was five years old, build up a successful restaurant business.
Close friends in the Sterling Heights area of Detroit where she lived in a ranch style home had no idea she was under the threat of deportation.
While Cile's immigration case was being considered by authorities, she met the man who is now her husband, Pete Gojcaj. They're pictured above in their younger years
Cile and Pete married (their wedding photo pictured above) and had their first child in 2002. The couple had many immigration issues ahead. Pete had a green card – a document that allows immigrants to live in the United States – but it had been revoked after he was jailed for three years
While pregnant with her daughter Megan she was told she was under supervision and had to report to an immigration office each month. Cile, Pete and their son are pictured above in their younger years
Cile openly admits that she lied to the immigration authorities to prolong her stay by claiming she was separated from her husband. Cile, Pete and their son are pictured above in their younger years
'No one knew. I did not tell the children, as I did not want them to worry. I just carried on with our lives while hoping that something would change and the deportation order lifted.'
Cile said she became a typical 'American soccer mom', ferrying her children to sports events in a Honda mini van.
'I loved my life and everything was good,' she said. 'I knew that the Government wanted to deport me, but as they years went on I hoped that it would not happen. I thought the US system would change. President Bush said mothers of children illegally in the US would not be deported and I had some hope.'
Cile said the immigration authorities urged her to get an Albanian passport and voluntarily leave the country rather than be subject to enforced deportation that would prevent her from ever setting foot back on US soil.
Cile's most treasured possession is scarf that contains the stars and stripes. She is pictured above wearing the scarf
She visited the Albanian embassy in New York several times but claims they were unable to issue her with a passport.
The immigration authorities accused her of stalling and in 2013 fitted her with a GPS tracker attached to her ankle so they could monitor her round the clock.
It was at this point that she had to break the news to her teenage son that she was under the threat of deportation.
Matters were complicated further as her husband was also under threat of deportation and placed on supervision by the immigration authorities.
She said he had a Green Card – a document that allows immigrants to live in the United States – but it had been revoked after he was jailed for three years.
Like Cile he did not have a passport having left the former Yugoslavia when he was a child.
Due to the splintering of the country in the 1990s he was unable to get a passport and was considered an illegal immigrant by the US authorities.
He has never left the United States as he would not be allowed to re-enter the country.
Although their three children are US citizens it does not give the parents any rights to stay in the country.
There are an estimated 11.3million illegal immigrants in the country with 4.3million children who have undocumented parents.
Cile openly admits that she lied to the immigration authorities to prolong her stay by claiming she was separated from her husband.
'They were unlikely to deport a mother if their children had nowhere to live,' she said. 'I know it was wrong, but that is what a lawyer advised me to do. When I went before a judge he said I had lied and I know that counted against me.'
Cile is staying that the home where she grew up in Albania before fleeing the country in 2000
Cile said that the only consolation on being wrenched from her children is being reunited with her parents and sister Lilljana for the first time in almost two decades. Cile, center, is pictured above with her mother, Pashke (left), and sister, Lilljana (right)
During her almost two decade long legal battle to stay in the United States, Cile says she and her husband have spent over $50,000 on lawyers fees.
'One lawyer asked me for $2,000 just to look through all the paperwork for my case and I had to pay it as I was desperate to stay. When he finished he just said he could not help me,' recalled Cile.
A month ago during a routine visit to an immigration office she was taken into custody.
Cile shudders and weeps as she recalls how her hands were handcuffed and her feet shackled.
Such was the shock, she fainted and was taken to hospital, and later transported to jail where she joined 20 other women awaiting deportation.
After three weeks she said a guard told her she was 'going home'.
'I could not believe it and I said to the other women at the prison that miracles do happen. I really believed I was going home to see my children.'
Cile said she stared out of the prison van as it sped along the motorway in Detroit but when it passed the exit to her home she knew 'home' was back in Albania.
'At that point I knew it was hopeless and I just gave up. There was no point trying to fight it as they had won. My heart was shattered. All I could think of was the faces of my children and when would I ever see them again.'
Two agents from ICE - Immigration and Customs Enforcement – accompanied her on the flight back to Albania where she was met at the airport by her 72 year old father Pasho and brother Arben.
Cile admits she has struggled to adapt and says being back in Albania is like being in an 'alien country'.
Cile said that she speaks to her children on the phone twice every day. She doesn't know the next time she will be able to see them in person
Cile said her husband is unable to leave the United States because of his own illegal immigration status, so she is planning on having her children - who are American citizens - move to Albania to live with her
She speaks twice a day on the phone to her children, but breaks down in tears after hanging up and admits she does not know what the future holds.
With her husband unable to leave the US, she is planning for the children to travel to Albania to live with her but accepts they will struggle.
'They are American and that is all they know. All their friends are there. My 16 year old asks if he will be made to work in the fields when he gets here. They know what it is like and I am so worried what sort of life they will have.'
Cile said her daughter plans to write to President Donald Trump's wife Melania appealing for help.
It is Trump's campaign promise to crack down on illegal immigration and acceleration of deportation that she blames for her removal.
'Melania has said bullying is one of her causes, but my children will be bullied when other kids know their mom has been deported,' she said.
'[my son] e is traumatized by knowing I have left and people at school have already said things. Melania is a mother and she must understand these things.'
A spokesman for ICE said Cile had known since June 2005 that she was unlawfully in the US and ordered to leave by a federal immigration judge.
The spokesman said she had been allowed to stay in the US to 'pursue all of her legal options before being deported.'
After her last appeal was rejected she was subject to removal.
'ICE no longer exempts classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,' the ICE spokesman said. 'All of those in violation of immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removed from the United States.'
Source: Daily Mail