Kalamazoo Church Shelters Woman Facing Deportation

Mar 12, 2018

For Saheeda Nadeem, Kalamazoo is home. It's the city where she raised her children and where she buried one of them. But Nadeem overstayed her visa after she came to the United States, and the government has ordered her to leave. In the hopes of avoiding deportation she has moved into a local church.

Immigration authorities have generally avoided enforcement raids at places of worship. That’s why Nadeem, 62, is now living at First Congregational Church of Kalamazoo. The church says it welcomes Nadeem while she fights for a stay of removal.

“The Bible is clear from cover to cover. The duty of Christians is to care for the immigrant, and we are a Christian church and we know what Jesus would do,” Pastor Nathan Dannison said on Monday.

Nadeem was born and grew up in Pakistan and later moved to Kuwait to work as a servant, according to her son, Samad, 20, who adds that his mother eventually came to the United States “in the hopes of finding a better life for her children.” She entered the country legally but later overstayed her visa.

Nadeem says Kalamazoo is her home now, and her son’s. It’s also her daughter’s final resting place. Lareb Nadeem died in 2016 in a car crash, months after she graduated from high school. She had planned to attend college on the Kalamazoo Promise.

On Monday, Saheeda Nadeem spoke of a need to stay close to her daughter’s grave.

“I have a grave place also, keeping there with my daughter. I want to bury there, actually,” she said, referring to her desire to be interred alongside Lareb.

Samad Nadeem has protected status until next year under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA program. He says he has noticed a “cognitive decline” in his mother since Lareb’s death, adding that she relies on him more and more for care.

“If she gets deported, not only will she lose the comfort of her daughter’s grave, but also her sole companion in life,” he said.

He also noted that for years she has worked as a caregiver for the developmentally disabled.

"The nature of her job is such that Saheeda has spent an immense amount of time building a foundation of trust with these individuals. They look forward to seeing her every day." he said.

"Those people really need me," Saheeda Nadeem added on Monday. And I love them, and I feel they are like my family."

Immigration lawyer Bradley Maze, who represents Nadeem, says that she has not been accused of a crime.