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Woman facing deportation finds sanctuary in Michigan church

By The Associated Press • Mar 18, 2018 at 8:00 AM

KALAMAZOO — A Michigan woman has moved into a Kalamazoo church in an effort to avoid being deported to Pakistan.

Saheeda Nadeem moved into an apartment at First Congregational Church on Monday.

"I'm worried, but I feel safe here," she said.

A GoFundMe page has been started to raise funds to help support her.

The 62-year-old was born in Pakistan, and then lived in Kuwait before moving to the United States 13 years ago. She came to the U.S. legally but overstayed her visa. She's worked as a caregiver at a Kalamazoo group home for more than a decade and hasn't been back to Pakistan in 40 years.

"My only son is here and they are asking me to go back, I don't want to leave him," Nadeem said.

Her 20-year-old son is protected from deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy until 2019.

First Congregational unanimously voted to become a public sanctuary church last year. The congregation won't let the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency tear families apart, said the Rev. Nathan Dannison, a senior pastor at the church.

"We do these things today not for political reasons, but because we are disciples of Jesus Christ," Dannison said. "We follow a higher law."

A 2011 I.C.E. memo says the agency's policy limits actions at places of worship, except in extreme cases. The agency didn't immediately respond to the Kalamazoo Gazette's request for comment.

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