The Larchmont family faces deportation – Theloop
A simple paperwork error sparked a legal nightmare for a successful community businessman, his wife and two young daughters.
Now, time is running out for Eduard Beqaj, his wife Arjeta Kackini and their daughters. After more than 6 years of building a life in the United States, confusion over their passports ended up invalidating their visas.
Arjeta and Eduard legally immigrated to the United States from Albania in 2014 so that she could pursue graduate studies in communication at Queens College, City University of New York. Arjeta had already completed a master’s degree when they came to America on student visas. “We were determined to do everything within the law and maintain our legal status,” she said.
But recently, when she was offered a job as marketing manager at an immigration law firm, she was shocked to learn of her own precarious immigration status. A new expiration date had appeared on the document that regulates a non-citizen’s legal stay in the United States and changed their status, she said, “without our knowledge.” Arjeta now sees the tragic irony that the very complexity of the system she wanted to help others navigate now threatens to derail her own family’s life.
Her husband Eduard founded a successful business, Begaj Refinishing, and they have deeply rooted themselves in the community. If they are forced to leave Eduard, he is not sure what will happen to his staff of five or the substantial amount of his own capital he has invested to qualify for a special investor program. in immigration (E-2). During this time, Arjeta launched a career as a marketer. All along, she says, “strictly adhering to visa renewal requirements, paying personal and business taxes and payroll taxes over the past six years.”
In April 2020, she said, “five months before our passports expired, we renewed them at the Albanian Consulate in New York. We thought we were fine; We have a valid visa, a renewed passport, so now everything is fine, right? ” Wrong. Eight months after this simple passport renewal, Artjeta says he learned “that we have no status” without our knowledge. In other words, for eight months they were unaware that their visa deadlines had changed. They were now mostly undocumented.
“We took immediate action to correct this error and requested an extension of status with USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services),” she explained. It didn’t help.
At the end of February, the couple received a directive to leave the United States by April 20. “I am desperate to find a way to solve this problem,” says Arjeta.
Much like so many business owners in Larchmont, the Beqaj family overcame the almost insurmountable challenges imposed by the pandemic. They believed that as legal permanent residents, they were on their way to becoming naturalized citizens. Their daughters, Ateira and Edea, aged 2 and 4, were born here in New York and are United States citizens by birthright.
After spending more than $ 20,000 on legal fees, Eduard and Arjeta say they have made no progress with federal officials and immigration attorneys have informed them the appeals are likely to be unsuccessful. Much of their family left Albania and now lives legally here in the United States.
“Maybe the plan right now is that we try for Canada,” says Arjeta, although it also involves an uncertain path and another endless round of paperwork. With just over four weeks before they were forced to leave. and with no firm destination, they started packing.
“Last night we were like ‘what are we doing?’ Is it worth it for us to always be loyal and honest with a system that is neither loyal nor honest with us? “
“We have invested time, energy and money in this country and by the time we get to see the fruits of our labor, everything is in the trash.
The young mother, who couldn’t wait for her daughter to go to kindergarten at Chatsworth Elementary School in the fall, says she has seen her hope for a bright life evaporate after the pandemic.
“We did a summary of legal and government fees over the past six years,” she says, “and we spent $ 170,000 just to stay legal.” Now it turns out that by forgetting an administrative error that they are not.
The Loop has contacted authorities for comment.