Murdered Pakistani’s family a step closer to US citizenship
By Khalid Hasan
Washington: The family of a Pakistani who was the victim of a hate crime after 9/11 has cleared the first legal hurdle to become American citizens, thanks to a sympathetic congressman.
Waqar Hasan, a storeowner in Texas was shot dead by man who was enraged by the 9/11 attacks. His family, which was living in New Jersey, found itself without means of sustenance and without a proper immigration status. Had it not been for efforts made on the family’s behalf – the widow and four young daughters – by Congressman Rush Holt, by now they would have been deported.
The National Council of Pakistani Americans (NCPA), a Washington-based national advocacy group, has welcomed the development which will make it possible for the family to stay in the United States. “This is a remarkable day for Muslims and Pakistanis in the United States. Congressman Holt deserves the community’s gratitude for adopting the Hasan family case as a top agenda item,” said Faiz Rehman, president and founder of NCPA and executive director of the newly-formed Pakistani American Liaison Center, a lobbying group.
When Waqar was murdered, the family’s papers for permanent residence were still awaiting a decision. Congressman Holt’s office said in a statement, “Nearly three years after the murder of Waqar Hasan in a post-9/11 hate crime, his wife and four daughters have taken a giant step closer to their dream of staying in America. Today, the US House of Representatives passed a private relief bill, H.R. 867, introduced by Rep. Rush Holt on behalf of the family (Duri, Asna, Anum, Iqra, and Nida), who lives in Milltown, New Jersey. The bill, which would grant the family permanent residency, is their last chance to stay in the US. The bill will now go to the US Senate for consideration at a date to be determined, and then to the President’s desk for his signature before becoming law.”
According to the congressman, “Today, Congress has helped them take a huge step towards putting the tragedy of September 15th, 2001 behind them and restoring the dream of a better life that brought them to America. I hope that the Senate will move quickly to pass this bill and that the President will sign it into law as soon as possible. The Hasans should not have to wait any longer to return onto the road to citizenship. I am very thankful to my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for their support of this bill, and to the scores of citizens, activists, and religious leaders from New Jersey and throughout the country who have supported this effort. The Hasans are the type of industrious, freedom-loving people we want in this country and they deserve to stay here.”
Before his death, Waqar had taken steps to become an American citizen. He was in the United States on an immigrant visa, but he had filed a petition for green cards for himself and his family. When Waqar was killed, however, his family’s American future was placed in jeopardy. Their visas and green card applications were both dependent upon his visa. When he died, their visas and hope of American citizenship died with him. For the last two and a half years, Rep. Holt worked with government agencies to keep the Hasan family in this country, pursuing every possible legal remedy to help the family stay in the US.
Congressman Holt said, “I believe that there is no more crucial time to demonstrate to Muslims in America and around the world that we are a tolerant and sympathetic people. We must seize opportunities to showcase America’s commitment to the democratic values that we are making great sacrifices to promote overseas.”