U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said she was relieved by a Massachusetts judge's ruling that puts on hold the deportation of several dozen Indonesians in New England who had lost their bid to remain in the U.S. and feared persecution if returned home.
Speaking with WTSN's Dave Andreesen on Friday, Shaheen said Tuesday's ruling gives New Hampshire's Indonesian population in the Seacoast the chance to appeal efforts to deport them.
"These are people who fled religious persecution in Indonesia," Shaheen said. "Many of them have been here for over a decade and many of them have children that were born in the United States."
In 2009, Shaheen brokered a deal that allowed them to stay as long as they regularly reported to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office. But in recent months, they have been told during their visits to the immigration office that they should buy plane tickets and prepare to leave the country. Some said they fear returning due to an uptick in intolerance and violence against Christians and other minorities.
Shaheen said most of the Indonesian population in the Granite State received "bad advice" when they came to the U.S. and weren't able to comply with deadlines.
"They're not under deportation orders because they've done anything wrong or committed any crimes," she said. "They had some challenges; they were not trying to be here illegally and I think there's a difference between that and some folks who have come to the country illegally."
Shaheen said these immigrants are not the type of people we should be trying to deport, but rather trying to help become Americans.
"They're valued members of the Seacoast," she said. "They have jobs, they've learned English and they've settled in our communities."
Shawn Neudauer, a spokesman for ICE, said a judge already had ruled the Indonesians had to leave the country and that they had been given to up to two years "to pursue forms of immigration relief" or get their affairs in order.
"The removal of aliens with lawfully issued Final Orders of Removal is done consistently throughout New England," Neudauer said in a statement. "This is done without regard to their country of origin. ICE does not discriminate against any group of people."