Facing Deportation By ICE, Owners Of Cheshire Restaurant Seek Stay

A Litchfield family could be broken up Monday night if Denada Rondos complies with an order to return to her native Albania, taking her children with her and leaving her husband, Viron, to run their popular Cheshire restaurant, Viron Rondo Osteria.

U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty visited the family’s restaurant Friday night and made an appeal to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement to stay Denada’s deportation and re-examine her case.

Denada, 32, entered the country in 2002 with a passport of someone who looked similar to her, and applied one year later for political asylum. Her claim was rejected.

When Viron, 43, married Denada in 2008, he knew that his wife had entered the United States illegally in 2002, and that she’d been issued a removal order from a New York immigration court in 2007. In the nine years between then and now, they tried to make things right, he said.

“We basically tried every legal way to resolve her situation,” Viron said. “We did as much as humanely could be done.”

In 2013, Viron filed a petition to allow a U.S. citizen to sponsor a spouse for permanent residency, and later filed an I-212 to seek permission for Denada to reapply for legal entry.

Denada won stays on her removal order until September, when her latest application was denied. If she complies with the order and boards a flight out of New York Monday, she’ll return to a country where Viron said her Greek heritage could make her a target of ethnic persecution.

Viron, too, is an ethnic Greek born in Albania. Greeks are persecuted in Albania, he said, for both their ethnicity and their Orthodox Christian faith.

U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal and Esty have written letters to ICE urging them to re-open Denada’s case, but “our claims have fallen on deaf ears,” Esty said.

Shawn Neudauer, ICE’’s New England spokesman, said the agency “will continue to closely monitor [Denada’s] case to ensure her departure in compliance with her final order of removal,” but said that “in an exercise of discretion, ICE has allowed Mrs. Rondos to remain free from custody with periodic reporting requirements.”

Denada’s lawyer, Erin O’Neil-Baker, said she has requested an emergency stay and filed a motion to re-open Denada’s case with the Bureau of Immigration Appeals. The situation in Albania would be dangerous, she said, especially for a single mother with three children.

In Muslim-majority Albania, Viron said, “they’re trying to push out all the Greeks, force them back to Greece.” Viron, who left Albania in 1999, said one of his schoolmates was killed recently, targeted because he spoke Greek, and he’s heard of Orthodox churches being burned and defaced.

Despite the turmoil in Albania, they’ve decided their children — Niko, 7, Katarina, 5, and Alexandra, 1 — will accompany their mother to her homeland.

Sitting in his beloved restaurant, Viron gestured at the bustling waiters, the tables he turns three times a night, the dishes of steaming Mediterranean food that have won critical acclaim.

“I work six days a week,” he said, for 10 hours or more a day. If the children stayed, they would not only lose their mother — they’d have just a part-time father, he said, so time-consuming is the family business and managing its 53-person staff.

“It’s very difficult to explain to a 7 year-old and a 5 year-old and a 1 year-old that Mama has to go, and that they have to go, and that they won’t be able to go back to school.”

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