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Shaheen joins family for ICE check in

MANCHESTER — As another local family was told Friday they will need to buy plane tickets to return to Indonesia, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen vowed to continue her fight to keep them in the U.S.

“These families fled religious persecution in Indonesia and we have seen in recent years increased persecution of religious minorities there, particularly Christians. So they go back to an uncertain future, back to their country of origin,” said Shaheen, a Democrat.

She said these families came to the Seacoast, found good jobs, raised families and many have children who are American citizens who are going to be sent back with them.

“One of the concerns expressed to me is what will happen to those children, how will they be treated when they get back to Indonesia?” Shaheen asked. “I don’t think that is what our immigration laws were intended to do, to send people back who have complied with the laws and have not been able to get their asylum because they were given bad advice.”

Shaheen said the country needs comprehensive immigration reform to address this and the DACA program as well.

“I am going to continue to work with these families to see what we can do,” Shaheen said. “We have been working with them since 2009 and we will continue to do that.”

Shaheen said under an agreement she reached with ICE, the families were allowed to check in on a regular basis, get green cards and find work, but under the new administration there is a change in how they are viewed.

Supporters have been doing regular prayer vigils gathered outside, as they have been doing for months.

Shaheen told the crowd that the way these Indonesians are being treated is not consistent with the values this country was founded on.

“These are folks who came here fleeing religious persecution just like the Pilgrims did when they settled New England,” Shaheen said. “We have to try to find a way that they can stay in this country, where they have made a positive contribution ... we will continue to talk to Homeland Security, the White House and legislative fixes.”

Shaheen said families are being caught in an immigration net that was designed to catch people who come here illegally and have criminal backgrounds, not asylum seekers.

“We need to look at how we can make sure our system is not a one-size-fits-all, that addresses individual needs,” Shaheen said.

Shaheen said anyone with final orders is in the first round of deportations.

“It doesn’t make sense to me,” Shaheen said. “We ought to be working on people who may have a criminal background. We have a lot of those people here and they should be the first priority.”

Shaheen could not talk specifically about the family she accompanied to their visit, other than to say that they, like about a dozen other families, were told to return in October with plane tickets.