Arif Mahmood came to New York in November 2000 on a tourist visa. He reunited with an old friend from his Pakistani neighborhood and they quickly fell in love and married. It was, he said, "a love marriage," not a traditional arranged marriage.
Now, along with 13,800 other men and teenagers who registered with the federal government post-Sept. 11, he is facing deportation. His wife, Usme Roohi, 22, is seventh months pregnant. The Coney Island couple have a 2-year-old daughter, Kaynat.
Friday, at a news conference held by The New York Immigration Coalition, Mahmood, 33, made a direct plea to immigration officials to expedite his wife's application for citizenship and his application for a green card. Otherwise, he said, he will have to return to Pakistan and to a community that frowns on non-arranged marriages.
"I would request to immigration to allow me here," he said. "Don't separate me from my family. I want to stay here and protect my family. I want to see a good future," he said, holding his daughter.
According to Chung-Wha Hong, advocacy director for the coalition, the registration requirement threatens to separate many families. Of the 200 men facing deportation that her organization has data on, half have families, she said..