New Yorkers who helped capture subway gunman in danger of eviction

Last month, as gunshots and smoke filled the air on an N train en route from Brooklyn to Manhattan, a 37-year-old mother who has asked to be identified only by her last name, Flores, began filming the situation on her phone. .

Then she did something extraordinarily brave: She gave her phone and its images to the police – despite being an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who has been subject to a deportation order for more than two decades.

Francisco Puebla, another undocumented immigrant who runs the Saifee Hardware and Garden store, was leading camera installers when alleged gunman Frank James walked by. The workers alerted the police, leading to Mr James’ arrest.

Now, for their contributions to the public safety cause, Ms Flores and Mr Puebla are having issues with immigration officials. Mr James’ attack on the N train on April 12 left dozens injured. He pleaded not guilty to counts of committing a terrorist attack and violence against a mass transportation system.

Lawyers for Ms Flores, who is pregnant with another child, and Mr Puebla told the New York Times that they are trying to obtain visas for them that are intended for victims, witnesses and informants who help law enforcement officers and also investigate whether they can obtain humanitarian aid and political asylum.

It’s not just Ms. Flores and Mr. Puebla who could use help from US Immigration Services. Zack Tahhan, a Brooklyn-born Syrian-American who fled the war in his native country, and Mohamad Cheikh, a Lebanese student, are also deeply concerned.

Mr. Tahhan, who became a sensation for his lavish retelling of his part in alerting the police to Mr. James’s presence near the store, is an American citizen. However, many of his relatives do not. He tries to get green cards for his parents and younger brother.

Mr Cheikh, meanwhile, told the Time that he is concerned that his participation in the hunt for James has put him on the radar of the militant anti-American organization Hezbollah. Mr Cheikh’s lawyer, Rifat A Harb, who also represents Mr Tahhan, said Mr Cheikh will be questioned when he returns to Lebanon.

Mr Cheikh said he would “love it” to become a US citizen and bring his family to the country.

For some in New York, it seems completely justified to grant visas or citizenship status to the quartet that helped police arrest James. All four were hailed as heroes, celebrated by Mayor Eric Adams at a ceremony at the police station. Mr. Puebla was presented with an official proclamation at a city event honoring Mexican Americans on Cinco de Mayo.

New York is a refuge and immigrants make up nearly 40 percent of the city’s population. Luis Gomez Alfaro, who represents the other two subway helpers, said he wants the city to stand up strongly for the residents involved in James’ arrest, but that has not yet happened.

For example, Ms. Flores needs city support: She applies for a U-visa reserved for victims of violent crime, including attempted murder. The city has to drop its paperwork supporting her application in order to be in with a chance of getting the visa.

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