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Deported for a Crime He Didn’t Commit — to the Wrong Country

April 25, 2019 (1 min read)

Scott Bixby, Daily Beast, Apr. 25, 2019

"A longtime legal resident of the United States may have been deported to the wrong country for a crime he didn’t commit—all due to what a foreign court has determined could be a case of mistaken identity.

Ilir Hope, a 52-year-old citizen of Albania and a 16-year lawful permanent resident of the United States, was deported in October 2018 after ICE sought his removal for a decade-old drug trafficking conviction in Italy. But after his deportation to Italy instead of his native Albania, Hope was released from jail—because, it turns out, he may not have committed a crime at all.

An Italian appeals court found that the conviction that prompted his deportation may actually have involved a different person with the same name, born nearly 20 years later and in another country.

Now, it’s unclear how Hope can return to the United States from Italy, a country he has never called home and, according to ICE’s own guidelines, should never have been deported to in the first place.

“The initial outrage was that they had deported him to the wrong country, apparently on purpose,” Matthew L. Hoppock, Hope’s immigration attorney, told The Daily Beast. “Now he has a court order showing the conviction they deported him for—which had been entered in absentia in Italy—was for a different person.”

... Hoppock continues to pursue an appeal in the conservative Eighth Circuit on Hope’s behalf, but in the meantime, Hope remains stranded in Italy, where he is appealing the drug conviction that he maintains has nothing to do with him."