Panel to focus on civil rights conflicts with national security

A who’s who of Michigan immigrants affected by changes in U.S. immigration policy will appear together on a panel discussion at MCCC next week.

From the pastor of a church giving sanctuary to immigrants, to a woman whose husband was deported, the panel offers a dramatic snapshot of the human toll of U.S. immigrant decisions.

Cindy Ramos Garcia has become a national spokesperson for immigrants affected by President Donald Trump’s immigration policies. She has appeared on The View, CNN, MSNBC, Telemundo and Univision, among others, following her husband’s deportation.

The Rev. Jill Hardt Zundel is pastor at Detroit’s Central United Methodist Church, which is providing sanctuary for an Albanian family that fled communism decades ago and now faces deportation.   

They will be joined on the panel by a “dreamer,” a young immigrant who had been protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which is now in political limbo, and a survivor of a Japanese internment camp during World War II.

The panel is part of Monroe County’s One Book, One Community program, which this year is reading “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,” a novel about the effect of Japanese internment camps on families and friends.

The panel is titled, “Balancing Act: Security vs. Civil Rights,” and is designed to explore the lessons we learned as a country following the treatment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and how they apply today.

Author Jamie Ford visited the MCCC campus March 22, talking to students during the day and giving a speech in the evening.

During the Q&A with students, he agreed there is a connection between how his Chinese ancestors were treated in the 19th Century, our internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, and how we’re treating immigrant populations today.

It’s human nature to blame others for your problems, he said, and it’s easy for politicians to take advantage of that human tendency, demonizing marginalized populations to gain votes.

Ford’s book tells the story of how the internment affected the lives of a Japanese girl and Chinese boy who lived in Seattle, Wash., during World War II.

Ford told students that “Hotel” sold well from the beginning, probably because it struck a nerve with Americans who were embracing a new multicultural era.

After slipping for several years, sales surged again in the last couple of years, Ford said, fueled by the election of Donald Trump. How we treat our marginalized immigrant populations is back in the news, he said, and that has returned his breakout novel to prominence.

The panel discussion  will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the La-Z-Boy Center at MCCC. It is sponsored by the Agora  and the moderator will be Vanessa Ray, current editor of the newspaper.

The panel members include:

Cindy Ramos Garcia, whose husband was deported in January. She was born in Royal Oak and attended Western High School and Wayne State University, and worked as a union organizer for the UAW. Married with three children and one grandchild, she has focused on being a spokesperson for families caught up in the U.S. immigration system and fighting for family reunification. Garcia has told her family’s story on The View, CNN, MSNBC, Telemundo and Univision, among others.

Mary Kamidoi, a Japanese internment camp survivor. She was born in Stockton, Calif., and spent 3½ years in the Rohwer Arkansas Internment Camp, then was relocated after the war to a small town in Missouri. Her family moved to Flint, and she worked at Ford for 37 years before retiring in 1988.

The Rev. Jill Hardt Zundel, the senior pastor at Central United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit, the church that is providing sanctuary for an Albanian family that fled communism in the 1990s and came to the U.S. 17 years ago.  Rev. Zundel has been serving as a pastor in the local church for 26 years.  

Samad Nadeem, a Dreamer who was born in Kuwait to Pakistani parents and first came to the U.S. at the age of 7 with his mother and sister, settling in Kalamazoo.  After the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (“DACA”) was approved, Samad requested and received DACA and currently works as a manager of an oil change business.  His mother, Saheeda Nadeem, cared for developmentally disabled children and traumatized children of refugees for Bethany Christian Services before going into sanctuary at the First Congregational Church in Kalamazoo to avoid deportation.

Diego Bonesatti, director of Michigan United’s legal services program, which helps people apply for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program program and legal residents apply for naturalization. A son of Argentine immigrants, he grew up mostly in the Lansing area and has worked his entire career on immigration issues.