ICE Is Trying to Deport Families Who Fear Religious Persecution Without Due Process

In 2009, the Boston Immigration and Customs Enforcement field office initiated a program called “Operation Indonesian Surrender,” which it characterized as “a humanitarian effort” meant to “bring folks out of the shadows” and send the message to Indonesian Christian community members that “we will work with you.” Eight years later, ICE is trying to deport all the participants.

The American Civil Liberties Union has joined a lawsuit to halt the deportation of more than 50 Indonesians, including 17 married couples with children who are U.S. citizens or have DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) status, some of whom have serious medical conditions. All of the families have lived in the United States for years and were known to ICE because of their participation in the program.

Working with a network of local churches, ICE sought out “upstanding members” of the local Indonesian Christian community in Strafford County, New Hampshire, who were residing in the United States under a final order of removal and had no criminal history. In exchange for identifying themselves, turning over their passports, and regularly checking in with immigration, these families were able to legally remain and work in the United States.

For the past seven years, Freddy and Poppy Sombah have participated in the program without incident. They both work at the same local manufacturing plant. Their son, Timmy, lives nearby, working as a fiber designer, as well as leading worship services in two churches. He recalls that his parents used to check in with ICE sporadically, sometimes as infrequently as six months or a year. But after President Trump took office, they had to report every month.

It’s been a difficult summer for the Sombahs. In August, without explanation, ICE ordered Freddy and Poppy to report to the Manchester, New Hampshire ICE office with two one-way tickets to Indonesia, departing the United States no later than Oct. 1. As a second blow, in September, the Trump administration ended the DACA program, under which Timmy currently has legal status.

It fell on Timmy to search for plane tickets for his parents, an experience that he says “totally broke my heart.”

Timmy Graduation

The Immigration and Nationality Act prohibits the government from removing a noncitizen to a country where that person’s life or freedom would be in danger because of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Current conditions in Indonesia make it very dangerous for these individuals to return. ICE could easily allow the families sufficient time to find lawyers to seek to reopen cases based on the current conditions in Indonesia, ensuring that those who fear danger have the opportunity to go before a judge and make their case.

Instead, ICE officials refused.

In its 2017 report, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom ranked Indonesia as a “Tier 2” list of countries of concern, a group which includes Iraq, a nation to which deportations of Christians has been halted by another federal court.

In its haste, ICE is violating the due process rights of the Sombahs and many other families by attempting to remove them before they are able to seek the immigration relief to which they are legally entitled. A federal judge has temporarily halted any immediate deportations for participants in the “Operation Indonesian Surrender” program, while she weighs the full case.

Timmy can’t imagine his parents having to leave the United States — the country they’ve built a life in. When the Sombah’s took up ICE’s offer, they trusted it. No one could imagine that the program would end so abruptly, with no chance for families to seek relief.  

“If I could be a citizen yesterday, I would have done it yesterday,” Timmy said. “People seem to think citizenship is like going to the grocery store — grab it, pay them, and you’re out. That’s just not the case.”

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Anonymous

People couldn't belief how fast Hitler engaged his Gestapo and SS. Isn't it amazing how fast federal forces and local police have started using the same extreme force! Now their suggesting delaying the next election. History repeats itself if lessons not learned.

Anonymous

Delaying elections? Complete fabrication! Never a good idea to compare those you disagree with to Nazis responsible for mass murder. Shame on you!

Anonymous

Extreme force?

Anonymous

They shouldn't be. Going after Christian, working refugees. They should be going after Islamic welfare leeches.

Anonymous

They aren't refugees. They also weren't granted asylums or TPS and they aren't immigrants or green card holders. They have no paperwork showing that they were granted any legal right to remain in the USA under any official program and neither ICE nor Obama were authorized to invent a new program for them.

Anonymous

authorized per the Constitution, that is.

Anonymous

If they have a final order of removal then the already had their due process and the judge ordered them removed. We do not have any immigration programs that. As for any deals - neither ICE nor Obama were authorized to make a deal like that. CONGRESS sets up any programs that allow foreigners to enter into or stay in the USA. We have immigrants, TPS holders, people in asylum programs, and probably a few others. CONGRESS created all that via laws and everyone in those programs is given paperwork. If the Indonesians don't fall under any of that then they do not have the permission of the US government to be in the USA. Also, you linked them with the Iraqi criminals you won't let us deport - are these people criminals too? Why do we have to keep murderers and rapists (and that's what some of the Iraqi's were convicted of) in the USA?

Grim Reaper

No Christians need ever be deported. Christians will help make America Great. Muslims on the other hand all need to go, and none of them should ever be allowed in because they are savage terrorist scum who wish to subvert our nation and turn it into a caliphate.

WillWho

You do realize that you are advocating for exactly what you are denouncing? You do not want to rid the country of Christian illegal aliens, only Muslim illegal aliens. That is the very definition of stupid. It is OK to have an extreme Christian government, in your mind. Nevermind that there are other religions that are not Christian or Islam. This country has no business operating under any theocratic ideals. That is precisely what toppled the crown in England and moved them into a parliamentary type of government. Quit getting your politics from speaking to people who know nothing about America's most basic tenets. If you believe that America was founded on Christian principles, then you will be able to find the word "Christ" in the documents that separated us from England and the documents that framed our government. Please, take a deep breath before you start your research and do not inhale until you find the word "Christ" in one of those documents.

Anonymous

I believe the Grim Reaper is using sarcasm to make a point.

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