Seacoast Indonesians get deportation reprieve

September 06, 2018

SOMERSWORTH — Some 50 Indonesians facing deportation, most of whom reside in the Seacoast area, have had their deportation orders voided and their asylum proceedings reopened after recent orders from the Board of Immigration Appeals.

“This is a miracle,” said the Rev. Sandra Pontoh of the Maranatha Indonesian United Church of Christ in Madbury, a vocal advocate for the locals facing deportation. “I am so thankful. All of us are thankful.”

Boston-based law firm Hahn & Matkov attorney William Hahn, who represents 10 of the Indonesians who faced deportation, said the orders were “unprecedented in immigration law.”

Most Indonesians facing deportation in the case were of Christian faith of Chinese descent, Hahn said. According to one order from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Board of Immigration Appeals, one person seeking asylum had his appeal dismissed in late April. The person appealed the dismissal citing “changed country conditions for Christians in Indonesia.”

According to the BIA, to obtain the reopening of asylum proceedings, the respondent in the case “must demonstrate changed country conditions or circumstances from the date of the immigration judge’s hearing.” The respondent represented by Hahn argued the asylum proceedings should be reopened “on the basis of escalating violence and intolerance directed towards Indonesian Christians. The respondent also contends that because of media attention linking him to Operation Indonesian Surrender and his Christian faith, radical Muslim groups and Indonesian authorities will persecute him if removed to Indonesia,” it stated in the BIA order.

The BIA stated the evidence presented by the respondent met his burden for reopening the proceedings.

“I rejoice with my Indonesian friends as they celebrate this important decision,” said Maggie Fogarty of the American Friends Service Committee, another longtime advocate for local Indonesians. “So many New Hampshire people have coalesced around this particular struggle, and have learned from our Indonesian friends about the chaos and cruelty caused by our barbaric immigration laws and enforcement. We will continue to stand alongside these beloved community members as they fight for their safety and the right to stay here in their homes. While these families take the next steps to seek refuge here, we must insist that Congress create humane immigration policies so that no one has to live with the uncertainty and fear that they have suffered for so long.”

U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., who has advocated for the local Indonesian community, applauded the news, too.

“I’m very relieved for New Hampshire’s Indonesian community. This is the right decision,” she said in a prepared statement. “I hope further progress can be made to grant permanent asylum to these families and will do all that I can to provide assistance towards this goal. These are men and women who have found a safe haven in the Seacoast to freely practice their faith — deporting them to a place where they could be persecuted is not consistent with American values. These individuals learned our language, found employment and became contributing members of our community and shouldn’t have to live under constant threat of removal to a hostile land.”

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., also issued a statement praising the decision. “I applaud the Board of Immigration Appeals for allowing members of New Hampshire’s Indonesian community to stay in the Seacoast community as the process regarding their permanent status continues. Many of these families fled religious persecution in Indonesia years ago and have raised their families here, becoming active, contributing members of our economic and civic life.”

By:  Brian Early
Source: Foster's Daily Democrat