NEW YORK — They were hailed as heroes for helping police catch, but now they’re asking authorities for help.
CBS2’s Ali Bauman spoke to the good Samaritans who now fear for their safety and their livelihoods.
When a gunman opened fire in the subway in April, it sparked a massive manhunt through New York for the suspect.
One day after the attack, Zack Tahhan and Mohamad Cheikh were installing security cameras in an East Village hardware store with its manager, Francisco Puebla, when they saw the wanted suspect walking by.
The three men flagged down a cop car and the rest is New York City history.
Frank James was arrested, while Puebla, Cheikh and Tahhan were hailed heroes, even honored by the mayor and police commissioner.
“Suddenly this thing happened and it changed everything,” Cheikh told CBS2’s Ali Bauman.
Cheikh is from Lebanon and is in New York on a student visa.
“What do your parents think about all this?” Bauman asked,
“Well, they were proud about what we did. They have some little concerns about our safety,” he said.
Cheikh fears when his visa soon expires, he will be targeted back home for so publicly helping U.S. police.
“In Lebanon, I don’t know if you know, but there’s some terrorist groups and people that hate American government,” he said. “Helping the police, helping the American government, some people in my country will have some problems with that.”
Tahhan is a U.S. citizen, but the 21-year-old’s parents are still in Turkey.
“Everybody know my face,” he said. “I think a lot because I cannot sleep good because I think about my family.”
Francisco Puebla moved to New York from Mexico 20 years ago. He is undocumented and his new publicity could put him at risk of deportation.
“My life is here,” he said.
He and Cheikh are seeking citizenship, or at the least a special visa that would allow them to stay long-term.
“They’re good citizens, regardless of whether they are officially U.S. citizens or not,” said Rifat Harb, an attorney for Cheikh and Tahhan.
With papers, Puebla would be able to see his family for the first time in two decades.
“That would be like the best thing to have, and have the opportunity to fly and go and see my family,” he said.
Tahhan is trying to bring his parents to the states.
“I feel danger for my family,” he said.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would not comment on their specific cases but told us in part it “is committed to increasing access to eligible immigration benefits, reducing undue burdens in the immigration system, and restoring trust and faith with the immigrant community.”
The mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs told us, “We stand at the ready to support Mr. Puebla’s and the other heroes’ efforts to seek stable immigration status.”
The three heroes told CBS2 they have no regrets, but they feel if the country allows them to stay legally it would encourage more immigrants to help with police investigations.
“We came here because America is safe and we’re gonna do whatever we can in order to help keep the city safe,” Cheikh said.