Officials with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) say they will not oppose a request from Malik Naveed Bin Rehman, his wife, Zahida Altaf, to stay in the United States; at least for the time being.
The couple was given a standing ovation by the congregation at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme which took them in and was inspired by them.
“You’ve showed us the meaning of strength under tremendous adversity and of courage amidst tremendous anxiety,” said Sr. Minister Steve Jungkeit.
Malik and Zahida sought sanctuary at the church 212 days ago. They spoke to reporters back in March with their daughter Roniya.
“She’s American she have a right here,” said Malik as the five year old wiped tears from his eyes. “She stay with mom and dad.”
Tears of uncertainty now replaced by tears of joy.
“The strength we get because of you all give us that strength to stay inside strong and be positive,” said Zahida.
The couple who came from Pakistan in 2000 to escape persecution stayed longer than their visa allowed. Last spring they were ordered to return to Pakistan. When their flight was canceled during a snowstorm they came to Old Lyme hoping for sanctuary during a second appeals process.
The two say they did seek citizenship and spent thousands of dollars on an attorney they said defrauded them. They missed court dates and the opportunity to plead their case but that too may have changed. Their new attorney Glenn Formica has filed a request for a stay while the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decides their case.
“The government attorney for the appeal said they weren’t going to oppose it which was a good sign,” said their new attorney Glenn Formica.
He says ICE has agreed to honor the stay which allows them to go home.
“Its a special day to say the least and we’re very appreciative for ICE’s discretion in this case,” said Formica.
“We are proudly a nation of immigrants,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
Malik and Zahida plan to return to New Britain and back to the Pizza Corner restaurant they opened a year ago this month. Senator Blumenthal plans to visit again this week.
“And I”m buying,” he said to a round of applause.
“I love you,” said Malik as he got into an awaiting van. “I miss you.”
Before heading home the couple went to the ICE office in Hartford to find out what they should do next.