ROMULUS, Mich. (WJBK) - Tuesday at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, Pete Gojcevic said goodbye to his three children not knowing when he will see them again.
Michael, 16, Megan, 10 and Martina, 8, will soon be reunited with their mother, Cile Precetaj, who was deported in May to her native Albania.
"My family is torn apart and we're all devastated as we can be," Pete said.
It has been a long legal fight for Cile, 46, who first entered the country illegally in 2000. Cile sought asylum in the U.S., claiming criminals would kidnap and turn her into a prostitute if she stayed in Albania.
Her asylum status was denied and since 2005 she has filed several appeals to the government. The married mother of three, who has no criminal record, lost her final appeal in April.
ICE agents jailed and then deported Cile, not even allowing her husband or children to say goodbye until a layover in Germany.
"People that always fight with their parents, 'That's not right, this isn't right,' be thankful; at least she is home so she can take care of you," said Megan Gojcevic.
The last few months have been tough on her children, who are now preparing to move to Albania to be with their mother -- not knowing when or if they will see their father again.
"They have to leave dad and everything they know," Pete said. "This is where they were born, they don't know anything about a third world country."
"When he was sad I would sayk please Dad don't cry or get sad, because that will make me sad too," said Martina.
"I am supposed to be the man of the house over there because my dad can't come," said Michael. "So someone has to be the man of the house."
"I have no papers myself," Pete said. "I can't leave; I have no country. The country where I was born no longer exists. I don't exist anywhere except here. And here, they don't want me here."
Pete, a Yugoslavian immigrant who has been in the U.S. for 30 years, will continue to fight for his family's return to the country. But meanwhile, at the airport, he held his children close.
All were overcome with emotion, knowing the future of their family is uncertain.
An ICE spokesperson says for more than a decade, immigration officials allowed Cile to remain free from custody while exhausting all her legal options. And the family was notified days in advance of the deportation.