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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Dr. Joseph Goebbels

"When is the American government going to quit being an Indian giver?": Chief Sitting Bull circa 1876.

Dr. Joseph Goebbels

It takes one to know one doesn't it ?

Anonymous

I have 5 illegals living in my basement. I offered them protection from ICE. They are good tenants and mow my lawn every week for free. I love beaners! I wish more would come, Ill protect you.

Love, God

Dr. Joseph Goebbels

"When is the American government going to quit being an Indian giver?": Chief Sitting Bull circa 1876.

Dr. Joseph Goebbels

On one hand it is sad to see innocent people having their lives disrupted in the fashion it is being done by I.C.E. under the Trump administration. On the other hand it's good to see them doing something other the sitting around pulling their pud like most government employees.

Gus

Been in this country for sixty years, legally, but will someone please explain to me what does illegally mean. Seems to me illegally only apply to American citizen. Because I know for a fact that I was arrested and taking to court for trusting passing and being there illegall, ooop i forgot a hefty find. Why Because The judge said I was there illegally. Why does the illegall immigrants get caught trespassing they get free schooling,medicade,

Anonymous

They should pick people like tgat assbite that ran over ppl in nyc. Or even deport guys in charlottsville who run ppl over. Seems theyre after low hanging fruit

Anonymous

Dr. Joseph Goebbels, you truly are an ASSHOLE.

Dr. Joseph Goebbels

It takes one to know one, doesn't it ?

Anonymous

Why is he a ass??? Because he wants the laws of our country up held???? I will hink your a ass for wanting things your way outside of the law....

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