Thursday, January 17, 2008
Immigration profs often repeat to their students that one of the primary purposes of the U.S. immigration laws is family reuinification. That, however, is not always how the law operates, as this story form Northeast pennsylvania illustrates.
Zekri "Zack" Paputchi, owner of The Old Mill Run Pizzeria in Sciota, Pennsylvania, is fighting to stop the deportation of his wife, Rukie, who, like Zack, is a native Bulgarian. After nearly 16 years in this country, she was arrested, put in county jail, and is facing deportation -- all after many years serving pizzas, giving birth to her two children, and having an unblemished criminal record in the United States.
Zack Paputchi faces life as a single father of two, with his own legal status still in limbo. A lawyer has filed an emergency petition to stop Rukie's deportation.
Zack and Rukie married in Bulgaria in 1988. Zack arrived on a tourist visa in 1990. Before his visa expired, he filed for political asylum. Paputchi testified that the communist regime in Bulgaria routinely persecuted and discriminated against him and many other ethnic Turkish Muslims. Once, he was threatened at gunpoint to change his name to a Bulgarian one.
Rukie, also an ethnic Turkish Muslim, arrived in the United States in 1992, and also filed for asylum. The Paputchis pursued their applications for asylum. In 1996 Zack, Rukie and Hazim moved to Monroe County when Zack bought Old Mill Pizzeria.
U.S. immigration officials deemed Rukie's allegations of persecution, like her husband's, plausible, but ruled that she had not demonstrated future persecution likely, as the political situation in Bulgaria has changed. Ethnic Turks now have their own political party and are playing a key role in supporting the governing coalition in Bulgaria. The Paputchis' lawyers appealed the ruling. Then came Rukie's unannounced arrest Monday at Old Mill.