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04/19/2012 United States (USA Today) – A Woodbridge, N.J., couple have become beneficiaries of a burgeoning national movement designed to help families facing deportation.

Arthur Jemmy and Silfia Tobing, who have been living and working in the United States for more than a decade, were to report to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Newark, N.J., for deportation to Indonesia at the end of the month but instead opted Wednesday to seek sanctuary at the Reformed Church of Highland Park.

They are among dozens of Indonesian Christian immigrants in this area who have fled religious persecution and violence from Muslims since the 1990s. They applied for asylum in the United States but were hampered by confusing regulations and now are fighting deportation after overstaying their visas.

“I was too scared to stay” in Indonesia, Rovani Wangko, 45, said last month after becoming the second immigrant to seek sanctuary at the church. He has been a U.S. resident for 17 years. “Christians couldn’t go to church. They couldn’t go to work. There was no safety.”

In 2011, Indonesia had more than 100 incidents of violence against minority religious groups — mainly Christians — said the Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, co-pastor of the Highland Park church.

Jemmy and Tobing’s decision to seek sanctuary at the church was prompted by government actions last week when two other Indonesian immigrants scheduled to be deported at the end of this week were handcuffed and jailed after a regular appointment with ICE, Kaper-Dale said.

“Because of these incidents, everyone is terrified,” said the minister, who has participated in protests of the government detention. “Reporting to ICE means going to jail.”

The New Sanctuary Movement is a loose network of churches and other houses of worship that give shelter to immigrants in danger of deportation, part of what the congregations consider their call to promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person. The sanctuary movement has its modern roots in the 1980s when Central Americans were fleeing civil wars and congregations defied federal law to provide shelter to the refugees.

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