Let Her Stay

Throughout our shared history, Christian churches have offered sanctuary to innocent people suffering persecution by the powers and principalities of this world.  In this way, we fulfill the teachings of Christ.

Historically, our congregation participated in the underground railroad – willfully violating federal laws in order to protect escaped slaves.  The ministers of our church prepared food for the perilous journey and offered physical sanctuary to our brothers and sisters fleeing the state terrorism of chattel slavery. Sojourner Truth preached from our pulpit.

Early in 2017 our church took a “deep dive” into the Word of God in order to discern a faithful response to the various crises faced by immigrant families in our nation.  In May of that year, we voted to enact a covenant and witness of sanctuary.

During the Lenten season of 2018 we were approached by a beloved member of our community. “Auntie” Saheeda Nadeem is a long-time caregiver in Kalamazoo.  She has provided care for a household of adults with severe disabilities and has volunteered as a surrogate mother for dozens of orphans and refugee teenagers.  Her son, who is her own caregiver, lives here in Kalamazoo.

Despite this, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has determined to deport her to Pakistan, an country that she has not lived in since she was a teenager.

Please use the resources below to support Auntie Saheeda and help her remain here with her family in Kalamazoo.  Check this page frequently for updates and information.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Write a letter or card of hope!

Consider writing Saheeda a message of hope!  Letters and cards can be mailed to the church:

345 W. Michigan Ave
Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Saheeda’s story

My mother is a very integral part of the Kalamazoo community. Through her ongoing work with some of the most vulnerable members of this community she has shown that not only does she consider this her home, but she contributes to it many times over. This deportation would not only be a great personal loss but a crippling blow to Kalamazoo as a whole.

Very early in her life, financial adversity forced my mother from her birth place in Pakistan. In the hopes of providing a better life for those she cared about, at just 18 years old she worked as a servant in Kuwait and sent most of her earnings back to her family. Kuwait turned out to not be the beacon of prosperity that she had hoped and shortly after having kids of her own she made the tough decision to leave all that she knows in hopes of finding a better life for her children in the United States.

That was 13 years ago. Since then, for most of my cognizant life, Saheeda has worked harder than any individual should have to, to ensure a better life for me and my sister. Contrary to popular belief, there isn’t just a form you can fill out to become a citizen in America. There is no web page for green cards or a concise wikiHow tutorial. She spent many years as an undocumented immigrant working under the table for less than minimum wage.

In 2012, all of our dreams were realized when Barack Obama released his plan for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA for short. Under this new plan, children who had arrived in this country illegally could stay indefinitely and finally got the opportunity to achieve their dreams, whatever those might be. America is the only home I know and remember, and with this program, I finally had a shot to remain here permanently.

With the help of DACA and the Kalamazoo Promise, my sister and I were able to attend college. Words cannot describe the joy I saw on my mother’s face when as she watched my sister Lareb walk down the stage at the graduation ceremony. 60 years of hard work had finally payed off. In a very unfortunate turn of events Lareb passed away that same summer in a car accident. She is buried right here in Kalamazoo.

Although the loss a sharp blow to entire family, Saheeda took it the hardest. For her not only was this the lost of a beloved child, but an alarming realization that decades of hard work had been for naught. I have personally noted a cognitive decline since the incident. One of the only things that give her motivation and joy is visiting Lareb’s grave every morning.

Outside of her personal life, Saheeda has dedicated most of her time here in Kalamazoo giving as much as she can. For almost a decade, she has worked at a group providing care to the developmentally disabled. For the individuals at this home, Saheeda is much more than just an employee. 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. The amount of affection these individuals have for my mother is comparable only to that of family.

Ever since Bethany Christian Services started refugee operations in Kalamazoo, my mother has had a vital role in the group home for new refugee arrivals. These teenage refugees come from very adverse backgrounds and many have even lost their families. Saheeda has specialized set of life experiences that help her relate to these kids. She has lived through many of the hardships they face or have overcome.

Her strong grasp of various languages and age have made her a motherly fixture in this home. The children all respect her authority and treat her as if she was their own mother. It always brings an inexplicable smile to my heart when I hear them call her “mom.”

Since that time long ago when I used to cling to her skirt and hide in her arms, times have changed. I have observed a very clear reversal of roles. More and more needs as not only her loving son but as a care taker. To her, I am her only companion. The only one that has shared her unique experiences. I’ve spent a life time with her and I am not leaving her side now, in her hour of most need. If she were to get deported, not only would she lose the comfort of her daughter’s grave, but also her sole companion in life.

She has not lived in Pakistan 40 years. This is a country that is just as foreign for her as it would be for you or I. She has no one to take care of her, and most importantly Kalamazoo is her one true home. This community has done amazing things for my family and I, and I would like to ask for your support one more time. Kalamazoo needs Saheeda.


Written by Samad

Letters of Support

Frequently Asked Questions

Why didn’t Saheeda just become a U.S. Citizen?

With very few exceptions, if you are ever found to be residing in the United States illegally, you can never become a United States Citizen.  Because Saheeda overstayed her visa (unbeknownst to her) citizenship has never been an option.  There is no “form” to fill out, there is no “line” to wait in.  Saheeda has been granted an annual stay of deportation by ICE (immigration and customs enforcement.)  For reasons that we do not fully understand her annual stay of deportation was denied this year.

Did she work?  Did she pay taxes?

Saheeda worked full-time since she arrived in the United States.  She unfailingly paid her taxes via her Employee Identification Number given to her by the IRS.

Why did ICE decide to deport her now?  Don’t they target people who are criminals?

Saheeda has never committed a crime.  She is a model resident of our city.  ICE policies change frequently.  Under previous administrations she received regular stays of deportation.  It appears that ICE is no longer issuing these stays.

What will happen if she returns to Pakistan?

She has been subjected to violence in the past because of her personal situation.  We strongly believe she will be injured or killed if she is forced to return to Pakistan.

Why wasn’t she granted asylum?

Saheeda’s original asylum case was denied largely due to errors in translation.  Indeed – the primary determinant of why asylum cases are denied or approved is the judge assigned to the case. This is a major issue in our justice system.

What does the Bible have to say about immigrants and immigration?

God’s concern for the immigrant, the wanderer, and the alien is found throughout the entirety of scripture.  God cares deeply for those who are displaced.

I want to help Saheeda.

  1. Pray for Saheeda, every single day.  Pray for the soul of our nation and for our nation’s leaders, that God might lead them back into the paths of righteousness.
  2. Follow First Congregational Church on Facebook and Twitter.
  3. Give to her gofundme page.  Consider organizing a dinner party, a concert, or another charity event to support her financially.
  4. Write letters to Rep. Fred Upton, Senators Peters and Stabenow, and local ICE Director Rebecca Adducci.

I want to learn more about this issue.  I want to help organize.

Don’t wait for permission.  Millions are depending on our action.  Educate yourself and take action today.

I have other questions.

Please email Rev. Nathan Dannison at nathan@kazoofcc.org