SOMERSWORTH — Referencing the plight of local Indonesians, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., pressed Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on the Trump administration’s deportation of individuals who came to the United States fleeing religious persecution.
Brownback, a Republican, is the Trump administration’s nominee to serve as ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom.
As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Shaheen questioned Brownback during his confirmation hearing Wednesday. During her questioning, Shaheen explained that the local group of Christian Indonesians fled religious persecution.
“They are now under threat of deportation, they are not criminals,” Shaheen said. “They are being sent back to Indonesia where the record of persecution against Christians has gotten even worse.”
Shaheen asked Brownback how the United States could be a model for treating people of all faiths fairly, yet send members of the New Hampshire Indonesian community back to the country they fled to face certain persecution. Brownback responded by saying it doesn’t sound appropriate and he believes “we should accept people fleeing religious persecution.”
In 2012, Shaheen’s office helped negotiate an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to allow Indonesian immigrants to remain in New Hampshire and obtain work permits in exchange for a commitment to regularly check-in with ICE.
According to Shaheen’s office, this agreement was recently reversed by ICE under the Trump administration, and these individuals were ordered to begin making preparations for deportation. Shaheen has called senior officials in the Trump administration on behalf of the Indonesian community, including the acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, acting ICE Director Tom Homan and Deputy National Security Adviser Dina Powell.
Dozens of local Indonesians are named in a court action in U.S. District Court that seeks to give them class action status and buy time for them to reopen their immigration cases to enter new evidence. Attorneys at Nixon Peabody LLP successfully stopped deportations that were supposed to begin a week ago, while the court determines what will happened next. The panel has not set a time to vote on whether to advance the nominations to the full Senate, or when the full Senate will vote on final confirmations.