Only on 10: Man who lives on Block Island detained by ICE
A man who lives on Block Island was detained by federal immigration agents for overstaying his student visa.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested Meriton Gurguri, 29, last week as he was working at the grocery store he manages.
Gurguri had been living and working on Block Island for almost seven years. He first came to Block Island the summer of 2010 on a J-1 visa and returned the following summer.
Gurguri is the manager of Block Island Grocery, the only year-round grocery store on the island. Store Owner Mary Jane Balser hired him.
“He is such a wonderful, wonderful young man. He’s bright, he’s so hard working. He contributes his time to the community,” Balser told NBC 10 News.
Immigration officials took a Coast Guard cutter to Block Island to arrest Gurguri on Feb. 27
“I don’t know how or why they had his name to pick up,” Balser said.
Gurguri moved to Rhode Island from Kosovo and quickly made friends. It's not clear how many people knew he was living on the island illegally.
As soon as people on the island learned that Gurguri had been detained, they began collecting money to help pay for his legal bills. Balser said the community has already raised about $12,000.
The New Shoreham Town Council also stepped in to help him and passed a resolution Wednesday, asking immigration officials to release Gurguri on bond and to be lenient with him.
“We've known him for several years and we've known he's not been a person to get into trouble or anything. He's done some volunteer work. He's been involved in the community,” said Kenneth Lacoste, first warden on the town council.
Gurguri’s attorney, David Borts, plans to file for political asylum. He said Gurguri has no criminal record and isn’t a danger to the public.
“Kosovo was brutally attacked by Serbia,” Borts said. “And he’s seen a lot. He’s seen a lot of violence.”
Gurguri is being held at the Bristol County Detention Facility. He’ll face an immigration judge next week when his attorney will make a case for why Gurguri should be released on bond and allowed to return to Block Island.
There are those who say ICE was simply doing its job but those who know Gurguri hope the judge will consider the good he's done.
“He’s just a piece of the fabric of this community,” Balser said. “This community is special. Everyone who comes here is accepted.”