In 1991, just before Communism was overthrown in Albania, Dritan Xheladini formed the rock band Thunder Way, which belted out anthems of democracy. Xheladini was arrested by the INS when he landed at Newark airport last May 16 with a forged passport. Xheladini was seeking asylum following the second revolution in Albania, which brought a new authoritarian regime to power. Since then, he passed a "credible fear interview," convincing INS officials he would be persecuted if he remained in Albania. But the INS continues to deny his asylum claim, holding him at a New Jersey detainment center.

An epileptic, Xheladini was denied his medication until after he had suffered three seizures. Says Bill Westerman of New Jersey's International Institute: "Five to 10 years ago, at the height of the Cold War, all an artist had to do was make an inkling that he'd like to come over and he'd be granted asylum. But with the Cold War over, asylum is just no longer politically expedient."

Long Island Newsday, Nov. 18, 1998