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

Round them up and ship them out. They are not welcome here. Get in line like the rest of the legal citizens had to.

Anonymous

Right on ! I agree 100% !

Anonymous

All United States citizens need to report any and all illegal aliens it is our responsibility &duty

Anonymous

There laws are on the books. If you don't like the law change it through congressional action rather than unconstitutional decrees like the last administration. The world is full of crap countries. We are not the worlds welfare repository. Deport them.

Anonymous

You're talking about trump's unconstitutional decrees. Screw you.

Anonymous

There laws are on the books. If you don't like the law change it through congressional action rather than unconstitutional decrees like the last administration. The world is full of crap countries. We are not the worlds welfare repository. Deport them.

Warren Robert

Whether it is morally right or wrong in sending people back to a country that is potentially life-threatening to the people being sent of course is a concern for all however the bottom line here and the issue that should be addressed is these people came over here without paperwork they were given a Grace period to check in to make sure they were doing everything proper,not breaking any laws etc. However my point is this: These people, with all that time to check-in, why weren't they or their advocates in the United States of America advocating for them to gain citizenship? It would have been very possible for almost all of them unless they had a criminal record to get a u.s. citizenship. That's the subject that should be addressed in this article but of course it's not. One had time to do it and didn't now everything's more complicated cuz now you have children over here and sure who doesn't grieve that you're going to split up a family? But like I said, these people had time beforehand to address what was a tenuous situation at best. If you're checking in with an agency monthly weekly yearly, what have you, that's telling you something. Why don't you do something about it?
Good luck 2 all of the people,but remember:"

LUCK FAVORS THE PREPARED MIND!!! "

Anonymous

Your comment shows that you know absolutely nothing of immigration law or the processes involved. Sit down and shut up.

Anonymous

Law enforcement or administration is not to blame for any family being separated. That blame lays in the lap of the ones who are here illegally knowing that deportation is what happens

Anonymous

That’s somewhat true but everyone’s situation is different. Like, my husband has been here 40 years and from Iraq. He reports the same to ICE, and does have a criminal background. However he has asked ICE when reporting for guidance and did open a case to fight to stay here. However, it’s very costly and cost more then a divorce and took over 3 years to fight his case. It’s not as cut n dry as people think.

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