A New Jersey federal judge temporary halted deportation proceedings against undocumented Indonesian Christians seeking legal status in the United States. Friday’s order came after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit following aggressive roundups of Indonesian Christians in New Jersey.
The decision affects about 50 New Jersey residents who self-identified to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2009 as part of a program to get deportation protection and work authorization. Recently, immigration authority has been targeting this cohort. Last month, they detained two men named in the lawsuit, Roby Sanger and Gunawan Liem, after dropping their children off at school. This prompted Harry Pangemanan, another plaintiff in the suit, to seek sanctuary from deportation in a church.
Pangemanan has lived in the United States since 1993 with his family. He had overstayed his five-year tourist visa after his family joined him in 1998, fleeing persecution in Indonesia for their religious affiliation. Since his arrival to the states, he’s been working through the church and organized more than 2,000 volunteers to rebuild roughly 200 homes after Superstorm Sandy hit. He told the Associated Press he wasn’t familiar with U.S. immigration law so didn’t know he could have sought asylum.
“Nobody asked you, as long as you are a good man, you work hard and help your company, and you pay your taxes,” he said. “You’re working like everybody else, you don’t bother anybody. Then everything changed after Sept. 11.”
As a result of the order, Pangemanan and three other undocumented immigrants seeking sanctuary at the Reformed Church of Highland Park — Harry Yohanes Tasik, Arthur Jemmy, and Silfia Tobing — can now return to their lives without risking deportation.
A federal judge also recently demanded that Massachusetts halt the removal of 50 Indonesian Christians. The ACLU filed a lawsuit there as well.
“These community members, our neighbors, are entitled to argue their case with the protections of due process, especially when the stakes are life-and-death,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha in a statement.
The Massachusetts federal judge’s decision gives immigrants 90 days to fill out the necessary paperwork. The injunctions prevents ICE from deporting them until after the Board of Immigration Appeals rules on their respected cases.