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

Because all the liberal organization s have taught them all to claim fear of religious persecution or fear of their government. So now they have ruined it for those that truly are

REAGAN

Yes, that's the danger, that they are kneeling to the cross on Sunday and bowing toward Mecca an hour later

REAGAN

We must protect those that are in jeopardy due to (real) religious persecution, Christian, Muslim, or Jew. If indeed that is the case here. Believe me, I'm all for Trump's immigration policy, but Indonesia has a bad record on how they treat Christians. If an investigation shows that these people are true, then they need to be helped

Anonymous

Illegal is illegal regardless of religion. Deport them all and make America great again. Our country is now a cesspool of immigrants who don't try to even speak English. That's not the way it was intended.

Anonymous

I'm all for illegals being sent back. I also am for

Anonymous

God you are there nowhere of all things including ice. God you know the dangers that these people face to go back to that place. God intervene for them in the name of Jesus. Intervene in the hearts of these mean people trying to make them go back so they could be physically harmed because they love Jesus. God I ask you to intervene and help all of your people right now that are coming under persecution because we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. We already know that you're coming back soon but soon isn't quick enough when people are going to die because they believe in Jesus. Come back father returned that kingdom come thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven. Heaven on Earth in the name of Jesus help these families God help any family that it's facing deportation because of humans that have black hearts. Help them the ones that are forcing people to leave to know that it comes back tenfold and we pray all of this in the Beautiful name of Jesus Amen. The Bible clearly says that when two people touch and agree and believe in their heart ask anything and it shall be given unto you I encourage you to believe with me right now for these people that are getting shipped out of here that belong. Amen

Anonymous

Amen

Tim

We need to stop pretending that we can pray issues away, and get off our own asses and do something!

Anonymous

This is just wrong!!So unfair & obviously breaking the law (figures when one thinks of the present administration).

Anonymous

They broke the law coming to USA..so..

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