No One Is Safer. No One Is Served.
An immigrant family hides from Donald Trump in a Connecticut church.
The legendary Chicago oral historian and moral force Studs Terkel once said, “There is a decency in the American people and a native intelligence—providing they have the facts, providing they have the information.” During a lifetime of listening to Americans, Terkel came to believe that, when Americans have the information, they do the right thing.
So here is the information:
For a hundred and fifty-eight days, Malik Naveed bin Rehman, Zahida Altaf, and their five-year-old daughter, Roniya, have been living in the basement of the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme, Connecticut. There is an electronic bracelet attached to Malik’s ankle, which provides his real-time location to ice authorities. On a recent Saturday morning, Malik showed me the plastic bracelet, which looks like a snug black shackle. Though ice authorities can send pre-recorded messages to him through the bracelet, he said that they prefer to call him on his cell phone, usually between 2 and 5 a.m. “Malik? Are you there?” they ask. He is convinced they do this to prevent the family from sleeping through the night.
Malik and Zahida are a middle-aged couple, originally from Pakistan, who have been in the United States for almost twenty years. They arrived as asylum seekers in 2000, and the first two attorneys they hired both absconded with their money—more than sixteen thousand dollars in total—and were later prosecuted for fraud. Over subsequent years, Malik and Zahida consulted eight more attorneys. In 2008, immigration officials denied their asylum application. They filed an appeal, which was rejected in 2010. Immigration officials then began court proceedings to remove them from the United States.