TROY, Mich. (WJBK) - Cile Precetaj has lived in the U.S. for 18 years, staying in Sterling Heights with her husband and three children. The 46-year-old is an Albanian immigrant, now forced back to Albania Thursday morning. Her family said it was without notice. She didn't even get a chance to say goodbye.
"She was not even allowed to make a phone call to say goodbye to her three children," her attorney, Michael Lacey, says.
Lacey says Precetaj had been detained for about three weeks with about 25 other mothers in the Calhoun County jail in Battle Creek, Mich., awaiting deportation.
"They were guilty of being illegal in the United States, and that's all," Lacey says.
Lacey says US Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not properly notify her family. Precetaj's husband only learned of her deportation hours before.
"Her family found out because another inmate called her last night and said they were being deported tonight," Lacey says.
Precetaj has no criminal history and has been seeking asylum for nearly 20 years, Lacey says. She was recently spared deportation, but was arrested during her monthly visit to the Detroit ICE office April 26.
"They are picking the lowest hanging fruit," Lacey says. "It is easier to arrest a mother; it is a little harder to go after a criminal who might be carrying a gun."
A spokesperson for ICE, Khallid Walls, said in a statement:
"This individual had a decade to litigate her case and the courts decided she had no lawful basis to remain in the US. This was not an arbitrary decision by ICE."
ICE goes on to say that Precetaj's family was notified days in advance, even turning in her belongings. They also say she was able to reach out to her family again from Germany during her removal which is what they say was the safest time to make the notification.
"Anyone who is illegal no matter who they are, no matter if they have a criminal record or not, can be deported at any moment," Lacey says. "I think we should take down the Statue of Liberty because it no longer applies."
While ICE stresses that Precetaj remained free from custody for the last decade while exhausting all of her legal options, Lacey says she has another appeal pending.
"We were hoping we can get some help from some other avenues," Lacey says. "Right now we are just hoping and praying."