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    Friday, August 19, 2022

    Top stories of 2018: Couple takes sanctuary in church for 212 days

    Zahid Altaf reacts to stepping outside as she and her husband, Malik Naveed bin Rehman, hugging a supporter in background, exit sanctuary on Oct. 16, 2018, the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme. The couple had been in sanctuary at the church since March 2018 and left Tuesday after Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials announced they would not oppose the couple's stay request. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

    Facing a deportation order, a Pakistani couple who owns a New Britain pizza restaurant took sanctuary in an Old Lyme church for 212 days.

    After coming to the U.S. in 2000, Malik Naveed bin Rehman and Zahida Altaf tried to stay here legally, only to twice have an attorney they hired end up in prison for fraud. The couple entered sanctuary at the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme on March 19, while their 5-year-old daughter — a U.S. citizen — stayed with other family on weekdays.

    Congregants organized activities for them such as drumming, embroidery and yoga, and Senior Minister Steven Jungkeit described the living situation as a "velvet prison."

    The couple found out the federal government would not oppose their motion for a stay, and they headed home on Oct. 16. But they have faced other obstacles since, and their future in the country remains uncertain.

    e.moser@theday.com

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