Indonesian Christian Immigrants in New Hampshire, New Jersey Continue to Face Uncertain Future

ICC Note: Dozens of Indonesian Christian Immigrants fled religious persecution years ago and do not wish to return. Judges in New Hampshire and New Jersey granted injunctions to stop ICE from sending them away. However, they might face deportation again given the reprieves are only temporary.

03/01/2018 United States (Presbyterian News Service) – Judges in Boston and in Newark, New Jersey, have granted injunctions that prohibit Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from summarily deporting Indonesian immigrants in those two jurisdictions. But the reprieves may only be temporary.

The challenges to ICE involve members in two Presbyterian congregations: Marturia Presbyterian Church in Manchester, New Hampshire, and First Presbyterian Church of Metuchen, New Jersey. The court cases are being closely followed by the presbyteries of the two congregations and by the Office of Immigration Issues of the Office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

“Our members are Indonesian Christians who arrived in the U.S. in the late 1990s and early 2000s,” says Teresa Waggener, an attorney and manager of Immigration Legal Resources for OGA. “They came fleeing persecution [Indonesia is the largest Muslim population country in the world]. Some did not know they had to file for asylum during their first year in the U.S. Some attempted to file for asylum, but received bad representation from counsel and were denied.”

All willingly began reporting to ICE in 2010 under a program called Operation Indonesian Surrender and have been in the U.S. with permission of Immigration under Orders of Supervision ever since. They regularly report, prove they have not had a criminal offense, and show where they are living and working and have been allowed to remain in the U.S.

They have children who are U.S. citizens and have been members of the two congregations for about as long as they have been in the U.S.

ICE has taken an increasingly hard line under the current presidential administration. Last August, many of the Marturia Presbyterians were ordered to report to the ICE office in Manchester in September with plane tickets back to Indonesia. The action came in spite of a U.S.  State Department report which showed that persecution of Christians in Indonesia is on the rise.

“The ICE policy changes have been so abrupt and the enforcement of them so quickly executed that no one has had time to have the motions to reopen their cases based on fear of persecution or torture fully adjudicated,” Waggener says. “ICE planned to deport them though they had these pending cases, which would have caused the cases to be closed. They would have never had due process in their new claims and many would have run the risk of being returned to persecution and torture.”

Both courts ruled in early February that the Indonesian immigrants cannot be deported while their applications and/or appeals of their immigration status are pending. The rulings affect fifty Indonesian Christians in Boston and New Hampshire and an untold number in New Jersey. Follow-up court hearings for New Jersey are scheduled in March.

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