Altaf and Shaheen Malek immigrated to the United States in 2007 from Gujarat, India. They came at the insistence of Altaf’s sister, who sponsored their immigration. Altaf, then the owner of a well-established electronics shop, and Shaheen, a pharmacist, did not jump at the opportunity to leave their well-established life. After discussing it heavily and seeking feedback from others in their community, they decided to leave everything behind and start over in the United States for the sake of their children, Tanzeem (then 11) and Ayan (then 7).
“Until we take that test of citizenship, until you read through the histories, you don’t know what this country was and you lead an intimidated life. And we did not think we had a right to do anything to make our lives better.” —Shaheen Malek
They first moved to North Carolina, living near Altaf’s sister who did what she could to help them acclimate to their new country. In 2008, they moved to the Kansas City area and slowly felt more and more at ease in their new environment, though they often felt like outsiders. Atlaf’s parents, Mohammed and Zubeda Malek, immigrated in the late 90’s and now live in the Kansas City metro area as well.
In February of 2015, the Your Fellow Americans team spent the afternoon with this Indian-American family, joining them around the dinner table and on trips back and forth to their local mosque. The Maleks shared with us their thoughts on race, immigration, and the American Dream.
In the video above, the family discusses their immigration experience and how they felt once they became United States citizens.