News / Asia

New Jersey Church a Refuge for Indonesians Facing Deportation

Carolyn Weaver
HIGHLAND PARK, NEW JERSEY — Since March, a New Jersey church has offered sanctuary to a growing number of Indonesian Christians who face immediate deportation. They say they fear persecution in Indonesia, a mainly Muslim country where the U.N. and human rights groups say violence against religious minorities has flared again in recent years.

Eight men and one woman are now living in the Reformed Church of Highland Park. They sing and pray, work in the church garden and help in the church café. But they cannot leave. They took shelter there after receiving final deportation orders that make them subject to immediate arrest. Several are still wearing ankle monitors placed on them by U.S. immigration officers.

Co-Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale says the church could not refuse to help its Indonesian members, who came to the U.S. more than 10 years ago on tourist visas, fleeing anti-Christian violence.

"From 1996 to 2003, a thousand churches were bombed, burned or destroyed in Indonesia,” he said. “And if you’re ethnic Chinese and Christian like almost all our people in this group, you’re particularly in harm’s way. We have people with stories of horrible traumas, and there are people who are damaged enough that they shouldn’t be going back.”

The Indonesians’ immigration problems began in 2003, when in response to the September 11 terror attacks, the U.S. government created a registration program for non-citizen men from predominantly Muslim nations. The Indonesian Christian men who reported as required, Kaper-Dale said, became subject to fast-track review because they had not applied for asylum within the one-year time limit.

Many had worked, paid taxes and begun families in the United States. Kaper-Dale said their futures are bleak in Indonesia, where deportees from the U.S. are regarded with official suspicion.

“Some face a whole lot of interrogation and then can never rebound from it,” he said. “We have somebody who was deported three and a-half years ago, still doesn’t have work papers or driver’s license. He is an undocumented worker in the land of his birth.”

U.S.-citizen children born before 2006 whose deportee parents take them to Indonesia to live will need to renew their Indonesian visas every two or three months, and will have to do so by traveling to other countries, such as nearby Singapore. However, Kaper-Dale notes that regular foreign travel of any distance is beyond the means of the affected families.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency says it does not conduct routine enforcement at “sensitive locations” such as places of worship, and is reviewing the Indonesian cases individually. Legislation now in the U.S. Congress also could permit the fugitives to re-open their asylum claims.

Nine-year-old Jocelyn Pangemanan, the daughter of one of the men living at the church, has never been to Indonesia. “It’s a hard decision,” she said at a rally at the church. “I can’t leave my mom here, and [I can’t] let my dad go to Indonesia by himself.”

About 30 people attended the rally and a short march through Highland Park’s downtown. A police car promised by the city escorted them. The fugitives marched, too, waving small American flags, confident they would not be arrested during a march for religious freedom.

Then they returned to the church - a sanctuary, they say, that has become a home.

You May Like

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: yafah1 from: US
July 06, 2012 2:02 AM
Is it not hypocrisy to send christian back to a Muslim country where they would be persecuted and yet we keep illegal Mexicans here - we do not dare send them back right? something seems to definitely be wrong !

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs