After 3 years in Kalamazoo church, woman granted visa

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A woman who has been living in a Kalamazoo church for three years is finally able to leave without the looming threat of deportation.

Saheeda Nadeem, 65, a native of Pakistan who also lived in Kuwait, came to the U.S. legally but then overstayed her visa. She spent 15 years living and working in Kalamazoo.

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

Recently, she learned she will be allowed to stay in the U.S.

“Today I have freedom,” Nadeem said in a video posted to Facebook Wednesday by the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, which has been helping her with her legal battle. “I want to express my thanks to President Mr. Joe Biden and his administration for the change they are bringing to immigration in the United States.”

Nadeem said she is excited to get back to work in the community that she loves.

She is receiving a U visa — a status granted to victims of crimes. Her attorneys say she was eligible for that visa because she was the victim of a crime while living in Kalamazoo, though they would not provide details.

The church says Nadeem is family and it will continue to support her, making sure she and her family can spend the rest of their lives in Kalamazoo.

“A lot of times people say, ‘You know, she lived here for so many years, why didn’t she just become a citizen?'” First Congregational Church Pastor Nathan Dannison said. “There is no path to citizenship. There is no line to get in. There is no form to fill out. That’s why we say our immigration system is broken. There is no way to come in legally into the country.”

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