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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Tim

We are our own worst enemy.

Here we are just inflaming the situation to create hate against us and our country....and we deserve it. We have turned into a pathetic cesspool of weak minded fear-filled, ego maniacs.

Anonymous

Joseph Goebbels ...really????? Your a jerk
Paul Joseph Goebbels was a German National Socialist politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945

Anonymous

Sad but...

Gaby

We can agree that immigration laws has been getting difficult over the past years in which many immigrants have been affected and due to this deported. I do not agree with what ICE has been doing in Boston with immigrants especially Indonesian immigrants who have been in the U.S legally. ICE is violating the 4th amendment of these individuals because they have the right to a due process, in which the state must respect legal rights owed to the person. Also ICE violated the privacy of these individuals by accessing information they were not granted with permission. Although these individuals are immigrants the still have the right to their privacy and practice their own religious beliefs without being forced to convert into something they do not believe in order to enter the U.S.

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Anonymous

Please end these articles with something we can DO. Call someone? Who? What else?

Maven

There is absolutely no rule anywhere that makes it a private citizen’s responsibility or duty to report anyone for ANYTHING to anyone, be they private, public or governmental body in America. Citizens are not burdened with the job of being anyone’s keeper. The direction our society was headed in even before President Obama’s administration, the group decisions and laws passed by We the people are in great upheaval at this time. The present administration shows no respect and no regard for 250 years plus of our choices as to where our nation is headed and how we conduct our affairs. Whether you agree or not with what is being done recognize that America is a nation of Laws. Suspending or ignoring our Law is not the same as doing away with it. After World War II we made a decision that if a person is in fear for their life in their country of origin because of who they are they may take refuge here. We saw what happened in Europe and we took a stand. Never again. That was OUR CHOICE. Now, we have a man in office who disregards OUR right to dictate our laws. He does not care for his elders’ decisions. He does not respect the law. Do not disrespect your country by helping him destroy our forefathers legacy. Stand tall and true. Respect the law. Know your rights. If he wants so much to change he must go through Congress and the House Of Representitives. Just like every other president must.

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