Valley sees influx of illegal immigrants from Albania

Thousands of illegal immigration cases are filed each year here in the Rio Grande Valley.

Most are from Mexico and Central America but one also sees names from places like China and India.

One recent group of illegal immigrants is getting attention.

They're from an unlikely place: Albania.

The tiny nation of 3.8 million people is nestled in Southeastern Europe along the Adriatic Sea.


U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials released figures of detained illegal immigrants from Albania.

From the Rio Grande Valley to San Diego, California the following numbers of Albanian immigrants have been arrested:

2008 152009 202010 212011 38

But 2012 promises to break previous records.

Border patrol agents arrested nine Albanians in the Brownsville area this past week alone.


Those familiar with Albanian immigration say they're fleeing the violence in the Balkan Mountains and looking for work.

Albanian language interpreter Joe Bajrami spoke to Action 4 News in a telephone interview from New Jersey.

Bajrami works as a telephone-based translator for courts where Albanians have to appear before a judge.

He said many are fleeing high unemployment, high crime, bloody family feuds and corruption.

Bajrami said many illegal immigrants from Albania who make it to the United States get a tourist visa to Mexico and then make the journey north.

Most of them are headed to Houston or New Jersey where other Albanians have already settled.

It TMs not difficult, Bajrami said. Several years ago, you could go to the Mexican Embassy in Tirana and get a visa and then go anywhere in Mexico on that tourist visa.


But along the U.S./Mexico border, prosecuting cases involving Albanians is not always easy.

A federal judge dismissed illegal immigration charges against two of them last week because an interpreter couldn't be found in time for court.

Bajrami served as interpreter for the other seven where the judge sentenced them to time served.

U.S. Border Patrol spokesman Henry Mendiola told Action 4 News that all nine immigrants will be deported.

Mendiola said once an illegal immigration case is done in federal court, the immigrants are returned to custody where they are processed administratively for deportation.

Immigrants being processed for deportation are taken to detention centers like the one in Bayview where they TMre held until they can be returned to their homeland.

Neither officials with the Albanian Consulate in Houston nor the Albanian Embassy in Washington DC could be reached for comment.