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Pakistani immigrant Muslim woman regains her freedom after living in Church for 3y

After spending 3 years in the Kalamazoo Church in fear of deportation, Saheeda Aunty is finally relived to get her freedom back following the new ICE policy for immigrants in the U.S.

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“Finally I am free” said Saheeda Nadeem in a facebook Video after being informed that she is no longer being deported due to the new Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) policy.

Ms. Saheeda was living on an expired visa since March 2018 when she was informed by an ICE agent one Friday that she had to leave the country in three days.

She had been fighting for eight years against a 2010 judicial decision that required her to leave the U.S. for overstaying her visa before being told she was considered a fugitive and needed to report to Chicago O’Hare International Airport to return to her homeland, Pakistan.

Since 2018, after facing deportation under the Trump administration’s immigration policies, she was offered sanctuary by First Congregational Church of Kalamazoo.

Ms. Nadeem was moved into the church by her 20-year-old son Samad and friends. She lived in the sanctuary for three years barely stepping outside until new guidelines from the Biden administration allowed immigration authorities to grant her an order of supervision in February 2021.

Read more: Why is Muslim immigration such a huge issue in UK?

Although Ms. Nadeem is herself a Muslim, she had become a member of the community of the Kalamazoo Church where she often helped the church staff and members and even attended some of the Sunday prayers.

“I didn’t know about Christian anything. It made me scared that maybe they would force me to become Christian or something. … But, when I came here, on the first day I forgot everything. They really welcomed me and gave me freedom.” She said

During her stay, she also cooked and looked after children in the church’s daycare. She often made six-course Pakistani meals for church members and staff.

Background

Ms. Saheeda had fled Pakistan at the age of 22, 40 years ago, to work as a domestic servant in Kuwait. In order to make ends meet, she had been working two jobs to provide for her children Samad and Lareb.

She chose the Kalamazoo community in Michigan when she moved to United States with her husband in 2005.

Looking ahead

Now that the fear of being deported is over, Ms. Saheeda’s attorney Reed is hopeful that she and her kids will be able to have the green card and apply for citizenship since it has been 25 years to her arrival in the U.S.

Additionally, she won’t have to worry about losing touch with her son anymore as while staying at the church, her biggest fear was not being able to see her son, if she is deported.

Read more: Trump approves ban on immigration, vows to keep foreigners away from US jobs

She also plans to visit the grave of her daughter Lareb who passed away after a car crash accident took place in the summer of 2016, one month after she graduated from Western Michigan University, Ms. Nadeem said through tears.