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Detroit’s former director of immigration affairs, Fayrouz Saad, said she is running for Congress in Michigan’s 11th District, aiming to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Dave Trott of Birmingham next year.

Saad, 34, of Northville launched her campaign Thursday. She is the second Democrat to declare her candidacy in the race, following Haley Stevens who joined the contest in late April.

Saad’s parents came to Michigan more than 40 years ago, starting a wholesale meat business in Detroit’s Eastern Market that her father still operates, she said.

“As cliche as it might sound, they came here looking for the American dream and achieved that. They really showed me the value of hard work and what that can do for families here in Michigan,” Saad told The Detroit News.

“I really want to ensure that that American dream doesn’t go away. That when people are willing and want to work hard, that should pay off. They should be able to have the same opportunities and the same access to be able to achieve success in Michigan and to live their lives here.”

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The Michigan native previously worked for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security during the Obama administration and as district director for the late state Rep. Gino Polidori, D-Dearborn, she said.

She has also worked on voter engagement within the Arab American community through the National Network for Arab American Communities, part of the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services.

Saad volunteered for Hillary Clinton’s campaign last year and Barack Obama’s campaign in 2008, having begun her career as a field organizer for the campaign of John Kerry in 2004 in the 11th District. The district now includes parts of Oakland and western Wayne counties, including Livonia, Canton Township, Troy, Waterford, Rochester and West Bloomfield.

Trott, an attorney, won his second term last fall, defeating Democrat Anil Kumar by 12 percentage points.

Aside from Fayrouz and Stevens, other Democrats considering the race include Kumar and state Rep. Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, said Carol Prince Hundley, who chairs the 11th District for the Democratic Party.

Saad grew up in Dearborn, graduating from the University of Michigan in 2004 and later earning a master’s degree from the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government in 2014.

She spent nearly three years as a staffer for Polidori in Lansing from 2005-08.

“He was just one of those public servants that are sometimes hard to come across. He was really genuine in his approach, and really cared about the people,” Saad said.

At Homeland Security, part of Saad’s role with the department was helping to coordinate community policing efforts in the counter-terrorism area by strengthening the relationship between local law enforcement and the communities they serve, she said. She also helped with the department’s emergency response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

Saad moved back to Michigan in 2015 when she was appointed by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan as the city’s first director of immigrant affairs. Her work included connecting immigrants to government and nonprofit resources to help them with resettlement, locating jobs and starting small businesses.

Since back in her home state, she started a chapter of an organization that works to organize and engage the Muslim American community called Engage Michigan, she said.

Her work with immigrant families in Detroit helped motivate her first run for public office, she said.

“I just saw how important it is to be able to work with Michigan families and give them the access and opportunities that they need to prosper,” Saad said.

She said she’s heard from district residents who are frustrated that Trott doesn’t seem to want to hear from constituents, holding only one town hall this year.

“I just feel like I need to push back against what’s happening nationally with the Trump administration and against Congressman Trott, who just votes in line with Trump and seems to support everything he says and does,” Saad said.

“Everything from health care reform to pulling out of the climate accord, but also the narrative that he’s put forward against immigrant communities, women, minority communities and so on, and I think it’s impt to have diverse experiences, opinions and voices in this race to really be able to speak up. This is an important time to speak up.”

Michigan’s primary is not until August 2018, followed by the general election next November.

mburke@detroitnews.com

(202) 662-8736

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