Yesterday, the New York Times published a portrait of Brooklyn resident Tanveer Ahmad, a cab driver who emigrated from Pakistan in 1993 and died of a heart attack in a New Jersey prison after languishing there for three weeks:
When the 43-year-old man died in a New Jersey immigration jail in 2005, the very fact seemed to fall into a black hole. Although a fellow inmate scrawled a note telling immigrant advocates that the detainee’s symptoms of a heart attack had long gone unheeded, government officials would not even confirm that the dead man had existed.
In March, more than three years after the death, federal immigration authorities acknowledged that they had overlooked it, and added a name, “Ahmad, Tanveer,” to their list of fatalities in custody.
Even as the man’s death was retrieved from official oblivion, however, his life remained a mystery, The New York Times reported in an April article on the case that pointed up the secrecy and lack of accountability in the nation’s ballooning immigration detention system. Just who the man was and why he had been detained were unknown.
Yet at the end of a long trail of government documents and interviews with friends and relatives in New York, Texas and his native Pakistan, there was his name, “Ahmad, T.,” still listed last week on the tenants’ buzzer board at the Eldorado, an apartment building in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where he had lived for years. And the tenant list itself — Jones, Nadler, Mahmud, Fong, Quinones — testified to the long history of American immigration that he had tried so hard to join.
Tanveer Ahmad, it turns out, was a longtime New York City cabdriver who had paid thousands of dollars in taxes and immigration application fees. Whether out of love, loneliness or the quest for a green card, he had twice married American women after entering the country on a visitor’s visa in 1993. His only trouble with the law was a $200 fine for disorderly conduct in 1997: While working at a Houston gas station, he had displayed the business’s unlicensed gun to stop a robbery.
-posted by Liana Grey