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Supporters rally for Metro Detroit man in sanctuary to avoid deportation

Ded and Flora Rranxburgaj's younger son, Eric, speaks on his father's behalf outside ICE offices in Detroit Wednesday.
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Supporters of a Metro Detroit man scheduled for deportation this week rallied on his behalf outside U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices in Detroit on Wednesday.

With his deportation imminent, Ded Rranxburgaj and his family sought sanctuary in a Detroit church last week.

Rranxburgaj entered the U.S. illegally in 2001 and has faced deportation orders before. The government granted him stays because his wife, Flora, is seriously ill with multiple sclerosis.

But that changed without explanation late last year. With his legal options exhausted, Rranxburgaj is now confined to Central United Methodist Church.

But friends and family like his cousin, Lee Burgaj, are pleading with ICE to grant Rranxburgaj another stay on humanitarian grounds, saying deporting him would rob Flora of her primary caretaker and put an undue burden on his family.

“His wife is so sick. She cannot do nothing,” Burgaj said. “She needs her husband by her side.”

Eric Rranxburgaj, 15, is the younger of the couple’s two sons and the only member of the family who is a U.S. citizen. He’s now living in the church with his family while attending high school.

“I’m trying to stay positive and optimistic, but I’m still extremely scared about it,” Eric Rranxburgaj said. “Because there still could be a chance after all this that my dad could get deported.”

The government appears unmoved by the pleas for leniency so far.  

In a statement, Detroit ICE spokesman Khalid Walls says the agency now considers Rranxburgaj a fugitive.

“As ICE Deputy Director Thomas Homan has made clear, ICE does not exempt classes or categories of removable aliens from potential enforcement,” Walls wrote. “All of those in violation of the immigration laws may be subject to immigration arrest, detention and, if found removable by final order, removal from the United States.”

The idea of claiming sanctuary in religious institutions is deeply rooted in history, but it’s a tradition with no actual basis in U.S. law.

However, Walls says that ICE, per its policy regarding “sensitive locations,” has no plans to enter the church and arrest Rranxburgaj.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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