Shaheen Lauds Asylum Rulings to Shield NH Indonesian Immigrants from Deportation

September 06, 2018

Shaheen Brokered Deal with ICE in 2012 to Protect NH Indonesian Immigrants from Deportation & Safeguard Community Members from Religious Persecution in Indonesia

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) issued the following statement in response to the Board of Immigration Appeals’ rulings to shield New Hampshire Indonesian immigrant community members from deportation and allow for the reopening of their asylum cases. Shaheen helped negotiate an agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2012 to allow Indonesian immigrants who fled their native country due to religious persecution to remain in New Hampshire and obtain work permits in exchange for a commitment to regularly check in with ICE. This agreement was reversed by ICE under the Trump administration, and these individuals were ordered to begin making preparations for deportation. 

“I’m very relieved for New Hampshire’s Indonesian community. This is the right decision,” said Shaheen. “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.”

Senator Shaheen has led efforts in Congress on behalf of New Hampshire’s Indonesian community. She has repeatedly urged Trump officials to protect these families, who would face religious persecution in Indonesia as members of the Christian minority. Shaheen has also questioned top administration figures on this issue, including Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Ambassador Jackie Walcott, a member of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, and Ambassador Sam Brownback, who is the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom. 

In June, Shaheen successfully added a provision to the Homeland Security Subcommittee Appropriations bill requiring ICE to explain to Congress how it complies with federal law requiring equal public access to federal buildings where ICE offices are located. Specifically, the provision directs ICE to deliver an analysis of how its Boston Field Office has implemented this policy over the past 18 months. Shaheen’s effort was made in reaction to ICE’s decision to ban the New Hampshire Council of Churches from supporting undocumented immigrants at ICE meetings in Manchester, New Hampshire. Shaheen has also called on ICE to explain why it terminated Rev. Sandra Pontoh’s long-standing role as an interpreter, in which she helped facilitate meetings between Indonesian families and immigration officials.