Albanian man in sanctuary for years at Detroit church looks to election for hope

Presidential candidates are crisscrossing the swing states. Americans are going to the polls in record numbers. COVID-19 is surging and countries are locking down once again. Yet Ded Rranxburgaj watches from his own little lockdown - his apartment inside Central United Methodist Church in Detroit

He's been unable to leave there for nearly three years, as he's taken sanctuary there in an effort to stay with his family and sick wife rather than be deported. And now he's hoping the election will spark some kind of change to set him free. 

"I hope this changes something and leaves me free to take care of my wife. That's very important to me," he says.

Ded and his wife, Flora, took sanctuary inside this church nearly three years ago. The family had sought asylum here in the U.S. after fleeing Albania decades ago.

Flora became incapacitated with multiple sclerosis and Ded was granted a humanitarian stay to care for her. But once President Donald Trump was elected and his strict immigration policies were put in place, Ded was ordered deported. But Ded knew he couldn't leave his sick wife.

"Tried to do best I can for my family and now to leave my wife that makes me sad, very, sad," he says. "You never see (her) again I'm pretty sure. You leave one time, you never see again anymore (sic)."

Ded says after 30 years of marriage, 14 of which have been caring for Flora, and raising two sons. Flora begged him not to go.

"I don't know how long I can stay, how long I can be. She's crying, 'Please don't leave me.' I understand. I can't leave her."

But how long can they stay? The case is languishing in court. Meanwhile, the church and many supporters are still rallying around the family.

"Thank God I got nice people in here," Ded says. "The church people is very nice people helping me and my family for everything (sic)."

Everything but their freedom. And for that, they continue to wait, with their eyes on an election that could determine their fate and that of so many others.

"Days gone. Years gone and still I'm in here but thank God I'm here with my family."