Rally backs New Britain couple fighting deportation

Published on Wednesday, 14 March 2018 21:05
Written by Skyler Frazer


NEW BRITAIN - Supporters of Malik Naveed Bin Rehman and Zahilda Altaf, a New Britain couple facing deportation to Pakistan, and other activists rallied outside City Hall on Wednesday.

“These are citizens who work hard, do their best and are family people, and that’s what this city needs,” said Victor Constanza, one of the rally’s organizers.

Last week, The Herald spoke to Rehman at work in his Broad Street restaurant, Pizza Corner. The pizza spot was busy, with about a dozen customers eating wings and pizza in the small restaurant.

But things more important than business were on Rehman’s mind. A few weeks ago, a flight for Rehman, his wife, Zahida Altaf, and their 5-year-old daughter, Roniya, was canceled due to the weather.

While the family’s time in the United States has been temporarily extended, Rehman said Immigration and Customs Enforcement has told the trio to prepare for a flight later this month.

In the meantime, Rehman wears an ankle monitor while he waits, hoping his case is reviewed before then.

“I’m not used to this stupid thing,” Rehman said of the monitor.

The Pakistani couple came to the United States in 2000, moved to Canada briefly, then settled in New Britain in 2005. Rehman had worked in pizza shops for many years, and in October 2017 he bought Pizza Corner.

Now, after spending their life savings on the restaurant, the couple is trying to sell it in anticipation of deportation.

Through their years year, according to the couple, they’ve gone through several lawyers, each of whom has given them conflicting information on their legal status. Just when they’d thought they had everything in line, they said, another lawyer would tell them something different.

Rehman said one of their lawyers was even arrested for stealing money from one of his clients.

The family is hoping Immigration and Customs Enforcement reopens their case. Media contacts at ICE did not respond to emails or calls on the case.

Roshanay Tahir, a student at Central Connecticut State University, helped organize Wednesday’s rally for her aunt and uncle, in addition to another a few weeks ago in Hartford. Tahir said they have contributed positively to society, pay taxes and have no criminal records.

“Their daughter only knows English. She won’t even be able to communicate,” Tahir said. “They’re doing this for her. I’m doing this for her.”

After the rally, some supporters went to Council Chambers at City Hall to speak on behalf of the couple during public comments at the Common Council meeting. The council was due to consider a resolution by Aldermen Brian Keith Albert and Katie Breslin that stated that the council and the city support the couple’s remaining in the U.S. “because they are good-standing citizens of New Britain and help our city.”

More than a dozen people had signed up to speak. The resolution had not been discussed at press time.

Mayor Erin Stewart has sent a letter to Thomas Brophy, acting director of ICE’s Boston field office, asking for clarification on the couple’s status.

“Can you please tell me the status of this case? Is there another hearing? Is this removal date accurate?” Stewart wrote.

She continued, “It is unclear what happened to this family upon their arrival to the United States, and whether their lawyer did not work to get them an extended visa and a path to citizenship, despite payment. Does your office have any knowledge of this history?”

Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at sfrazer@centralctcommunications.com.

Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain on Wednesday, 14 March 2018 21:05. Updated: Wednesday, 14 March 2018 21:07.