by Cindy Pena
A sign that read “Keep My Family 2gether” was held by five-year-old Roniya, whose parents were scheduled to be deported on March 2 to Pakistan, a country unknown to Roniya, who also was supposed to leave with her father, Malik Naveed Bin Rehman, and mother, Zahida Altaf.
However, the flight was cancelled due to weather conditions, causing Immigration and Customs Enforcement to allow them to stay for now, according to Facebook page “Keep Rehman and Altaf Home.”
Before their scheduled deportation, Central Connecticut’s organization, C.H.A.N.G.E, along with other community members, rallied in front of the federal courthouse in support of the New Britain couple.
They were met with support by the community and CCSU students, including Victor Constanza, who helped organize the rally.
“The rally is meant to have the media come and let ICE know we are here and there is support here for this family to stay,” Constanza, President of C.H.A.N.G.E, said. “I think it’s a really good support system to know that there are people here who know their struggle, who have been through their struggle.”
Niece of the couple and C.H.A.N.G.E member, Roshanay Tahir, also helped organize the rally and gave a speech at the event emphasizing that their case is, what she considers, an unjust deportation.
“They are the only family I have in America, so they are my determination. They are what keeps me going. I am doing this all for them,” Tahir said. “I want them to stay so they can have a good education for their daughter, so they can have access to good health care for their daughter, so they can have a good life for them and their family.”
Rehman and Altaf came to the United States in 2000 legally with non-immigrant visas. However, they stayed past their visas’ expiration dates and were informed this winter that they needed to leave to Pakistan. ICE told the Hartford Courant that they recognized that they came here legally, but did not follow the terms by overstaying.
Rehman and Altaf’s hope, by this rally, was to show ICE and others that many undocumented families are here to achieve the American dream, them being one of those families.
“Some of the illegal people here are spending a good life here and have a good future,” Altaf said. “Some have kids and go to school and have a good future here. I think that they should stop deporting families especially when they are here and have a good life.”
“We just hope we can stay here and my daughter can go to school,” Rehman said.
Rehmen and Altaf own a small pizza business called Pizza Corner located on Broad Street in New Britain, a business that they say is a “dream come true.”
“That’s my husband’s dream because he has worked in a lot of pizza places and he dreamed that he wanted to own his own pizza place,” Altaf said. “We just started that business and now after two months, we get the news that we have to leave the country, so that is very shocking news for us. His dream came true and we started a happy life here and everything was going smooth, but then suddenly we are told we have to leave.”
Rehmen and Altaf expressed their gratitude for the support system C.H.A.N.G.E and the community has provided to them, despite the uncertainty of their future.
“It means a lot to us because my niece is with [C.H.A.N.G.E] and they are helping us and they came here, so we are thankful for them,” Altaf said. “It is more motivating for us because when we saw that they were helping us, we became more motivated to stay here.”