A U.S. federal judge last week temporarily halted the deportation of 50 Indonesian Christians in New Jersey who argue they could face persecution if they return to their homeland. The ruling is the latest in an ongoing case that is similar to others around the world.
U.S. District Judge Esther Salas ruled Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) can’t deport the Indonesians while their cases are pending. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal class-action lawsuit that requested a stay for the migrants so they have more time to challenge their deportations.
“This case involves life-and-death stakes, and we are simply asking that these longtime residents be given opportunity to show that they are entitled to remain here,” Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants Rights Project, said in a statement. “As in other cases … involving mass deportations, we are asking the court to make clear that the fundamental protections of due process apply to noncitizens.”
Thousands of Indonesians fled to the United States in the 1990s when a political regime that targeted Christians assumed power. The Muslim-majority country currently ranks 36th on the Open Doors list of the most difficult countries for Christians to live in. In 2009, dozens of Indonesian Christians identified themselves to ICE as part of a program that granted them work permits and stays of deportation as long as they checked in annually. But the migrants started to receive orders to return to their country in August 2017 after the Trump administration ended the agreement.
On Jan. 25, authorities detained two Indonesian Christians as they dropped off their children at school. Harry Pangemanan, who arrived in the United States in 1993 and lives with his wife and two daughters in central New Jersey, took refuge at the Reformed Church of Highland Park, a congregation in the Reformed Church in America. Pangemanan serves as an elder in the church and helped to rebuild about 200 homes after Superstorm Sandy. “We are trying to stay strong as a family, take one day at a time,” he said. “You do your best today, do something useful, and tomorrow is in God’s hands.”
In a similar move Sunday, Israel started to hand out its first batch of deportation notices to some 20,000 male African migrants, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea. The notice asked the migrants either to leave the country within 60 days or face imprisonment. Israel offered the migrants a $3,500 grant and said it will send them to a “a safe third country,” though it did not specify which one. Some 40,000 African migrants arrived in Israel up to a decade ago fleeing persecution in their home countries.
Advocacy groups rejected the move. “The experience of the Jewish people over generations heightens this obligation,” officials with Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust memorial, said in a statement. “The authorities in Israel must make every effort so that there is no person who arrived in Israel with a sword over his neck that did not receive refugee status.”