At 9:30 p.m. in Michigan, it is 2:30 a.m. in Albania.
Mikie who is now 16 years old, Meagan 11-years-old, Martina 9-years-old are asleep. When they wake up they will go to a parochial school in a city not far from their mother’s village of Gradec Schroder.
The children have been moved from the small village to a small apartment in a city the family asks not to be disclosed because as U.S. Citizens, their mother’s immigration attorney fears they could be targets for backlash or even kidnappings.
Mikie, a 10th grader, tells his father that he is traumatized. He says he has lived a life of trauma. Old enough to remember and understand the families struggles over the decade to remain in the United States legally. He has no interest in learning the Albanian language and less interest in school. His father says, he is mostly angry and lives his days afraid of being kidnaped.
Meagan is in the 6th grade and is struggling. A star pupil in her school near her Sterling Heights, Michigan home, she is not a top student in Albania. While she is learning the language quickly, she still struggles with her studies. Struggling with school work is new to her. She tells her father she feels lost and misses him, her grandmother and her friends back in the United States.
Martina is in the 4th grade and is putting efforts into just being a kid. She usually has a smile on her face and has found friends who speak some English. She tells her father she often tries to forget where she is, but she is happy to be with her mother.
Pete has taken his Sterling Heights home off the market. He says the children begged him not to sell their home and their belongings. Their hope is that someday they will return to their country and they will need to have their things waiting for them. Pete has purchased a new restaurant in Harper Woods and is supporting his family from afar.
Today he remains hopeful that his family will return, but he’s not confident that they will. His house has since been taken off the market. “The children were crying,” he told me. “They begged me not to sell the house because they want to return to it,” Pete tells me on the phone. “And so I kept it.”
He is a man learning to live a new normal. Life without his family. She is a woman learning to live a new normal -- life without her husband. The children are learning to live a new normal -- life as Albanians -- giving up their birthright to their own homeland because of the DNA of their parents.
Cile fears for her safety and the safety of her children. She continues to fight to return to the United States. She has not seen her husband in 5 months.
The recent ruling by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has opened the door for her case to be re-opened. But there is still no guarantee she or her children will ever return.