Sat | Feb 24, 2018

Judge temporarily halts deportation of Indonesian Christians

Published:Sunday | February 4, 2018 | 12:00 AM
In this October 2017 photo, Seth Kaper-Dale (left), a pastor, talks to Arthur Jemmy, an Indonesian man who is taking sanctuary in Kaper-Dale's church to avoid deportation.

HIGHLAND PARK, New Jersey (AP):

A federal judge has temporarily halted deportation proceedings against Indonesian Christians who are in the United States illegally but are seeking to gain legal status.

Those facing deportation include a man honoured for his work helping to rebuild more than 200 homes after Superstorm Sandy.

The order last Friday was issued by US District Judge Esther Salas in Newark in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and applies to Indonesians who have orders of removal dating to before 2009.

The order affects roughly 50 people in New Jersey who had identified themselves to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2009 as part of a programme to obtain work authorisation and stays of deportation, according to the ACLU and Seth Kaper-Dale, co-pastor of a church where some of the immigrants sought sanctuary.

The lawsuit came after several enforcement actions by immigration authorities in New Jersey that targeted Indonesian Christians and rekindled fears in a community that includes people who left Indonesia years ago to escape religious persecution.

Two men were arrested last month after they dropped their children off at school. Harry Pangemanan, who has been in the country since 1993 and lives with his wife and two daughters in central New Jersey, sought sanctuary at the Reformed Church of Highland Park, where he is an elder and where he spent nine months in 2012 under similar circumstances.

Two other men, Arthur Jemmy and Yohanes Tasik, already were living there to avoid detention.

Salas ordered both sides to file briefs over the next month.

Pangemanan has been staying in a room that doubles as a children's library at the church and had to move his belongings when the library is in use. His family joined him recently after their home was broken into and vandalised after his name was included in news reports.

He went to the US in 1993 on a tourist visa that was to lapse in five years, he said. His wife arrived in 1998 during a period of turmoil in Indonesia when Christians were being targeted. They cite that as one reason for not going back.