Agora hosts immigration panel

Panel members Diego Bonesatti, Rev. Dr. Jill Hardt Zundell, Samad Nadeem, Mary Kamidoi and Cindy Garcia

Immigration, deportation, and prejudice all continue to be hot button issues in the United States.

On Wed, March 28, the Agora put a face to the issue by hosting the forum “Balancing Act: Security vs. Civil Rights" in the atrium of the La-Z-Boy Center.

Author of Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet speaks at MCCC

The panel featured a who's who of Michigan residents affected by changes in immigration policy – a Japanese internment camp survivor, the wife of a deported immigrant, a DREAMER, the Director of Michigan United’s legal services program, and the pastor of a sanctuary church.

The five individuals took turns telling their stories and answering questions from the audience.  The event was part of the One Book, One Community program, with this year’s feature being “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” by Jamie Ford.

Samad Nadeem, the youngest of the group, sat in the middle of the five and told the audience about his family being torn apart.

He was born in Kuwait and moved to the U.S. with his sister and mother when he was seven.

When Nadeem was his father was sent back to Kuwait, and his mother is currently living as a refugee at a church in Kalamazoo due to the constant threat of deportation she faces

Nadeem was able to apply for, and receive help from the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Reverend Dr. Jill Hardt Zundell has been a pastor at the Central United Methodist Church in Detroit for 26 years.  She spoke about an Albanian family who sought sanctuary in the church after coming to the U.S. 17 years ago.

Diego Bonesatti is the director of Michigan United’s legal services program.

He spoke about some of the work he has done and some of the many different people he has met.  Bonesatti explained one part of his job is to help people who are legal U.S. residents who want to apply for naturalization.

The second part is to help people who plan to apply for DACA, the same program Nadeem went through.

 Mary Kamido is a Japanese American born in California. 

She spoke about her three and a half years in an internment camp during World War II.

She told tales of the prejudice she was forced to endure for years from inside and outside her job at Ford Motor Company.

The last of the five is Cindy Garcia, a mother of three and grandmother of one, who is still reeling from her husband’s deportation in January. 

The Royal Oak native talked about her work as a voice for the families dealing with the immigration system.