HARTFORD – Dozens of people rallied in Hartford on Thursday morning in support of two New Britain residents who are scheduled to be deported Friday.
“No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here,” supporters chanted in protest of the deportation of Malik Naveed Bin Rehman and Zahida Altaf, who own Pizza Corner on Broad Street in New Britain.
After about 15 years in the United States, the couple and their 5-year-old daughter Roniya are scheduled to be deported to their native Pakistan on Friday.
“They are the American Dream,” said Roshanay Tahir, niece of Rehman and Altaf.
Tahir, a student at Central Connecticut State University, said her aunt and uncle have contributed positively to society, pay taxes and have no criminal records. According to the couple, throughout their years here they’ve gone through several different lawyers who each gave them conflicting information. Just when they’d thought they had everything in line, another lawyer would tell them something different.
One of their most recent attorneys told them in front of their daughter to leave their daughter in the U.S. with friends while they go back to Pakistan. Two days later, their daughter brought it up to them; they didn’t think she was paying attention when that conversation was happening, but she was.
“She said ‘Mama can I ask you something?’ I said yes. She said, ‘do you love me?’ I said of course I love you why you ask me that? ‘Officer told you to leave me here and you both go. Why he told you that?’” Altaf told The Herald.
Rehman said one of their attorneys was even arrested for stealing money from one of his clients. The family is hoping U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement re-open their case for more consideration.
“I want I.C.E. to know that we won’t be silent on their case, because that’s exactly what they want. They know as soon as we go silent they have won,” Tahir said in front of the Ribicoff Federal Building, Hartford’s immigration court. “I want my family to get a fair trial. I want them to know that they’re not a number. I want I.C.E. to go through this case by case, look at each detail, look at the strong compelling evidence.”
The couple first came to the United States in 2000, and after a brief stint of living in Canada, they settled in New Britain in 2005. Rehman worked in pizza shops for many years while in the country, and in October 2017 he purchased his own pizza shop on Broad Street.
“I have a dream...you come to America and people say they have a dream. I have a goal to buy my own pizza shop,” Rehman said.
Now, after spending their life savings to purchase the restaurant, the couple is trying to sell the business in anticipation of their deportation.
Mariano Cardoso, Jr., who went through this process a few months ago with his father Mariano Cardoso, Sr., said this is one of the worst things a family can go through.
“No one should have to go through this pain,” Cardoso Jr. said.
Jose Diaz, an immigrant himself, said the plight of this family reminded himself of his own hardship. Diaz, who spoke no English at the time, came to the United States from Mexico when he was just ten years old.
“I had to struggle so much and adapt. Now I think about the five-year-old who was born here in Connecticut. She has to go through the same thing if she now goes to Pakistan with her parents,” Diaz said. “Imagine how she’s going to feel later on, waking up one day and saying ‘Why am I here? This is not my home.’”
Supporters of Rehman and Altaf will hold a press conference Friday morning to give announce any updates on the family’s immigration case. Check back with The Herald for updates on the story.
Angie DeRosa contributed to this story.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.