Christians fleeing persecution arrested by immigration officers in NJ
HIGHLAND PARK — Four Indonesians who were seeking asylum in New Jersey have been taken into custody and are facing deportation, a minister said Tuesday.
The Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, said the men are Christians who escaped persecution in Indonesia in the 1990s.
They were among a group of eight who in 2013 were granted a temporary stay of their deportation orders, allowing them to remain in the U.S. legally for a year.
They were placed on orders of supervision and allowed to remain in their community, but were required to report to immigration authorities. They met with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Monday and were detained.
"This disturbing change of events breaks up families, creates insecurity and ruins America," said Kaper-Dale, an independent candidate for governor of New Jersey.
ICE told News 12 New Jersey the men waited too long to file for official asylum.
"Aliens who illegally enter the United States and those who overstay or otherwise violate the terms of their visas have violated our nation's laws and can pose a threat to national security and public safety," ICE said in a statement.
Hundreds of Christians fled Indonesia between 1996 and 2003, when more than 1,000 churches were destroyed by anti-Christian extremists in the majority Muslim country. The U.S. government allowed many to enter the country on tourist visas in the chaotic aftermath of the fall of the regime of dictator Suharto, who ruled Indonesia from 1967 to 1998. Many worked, established lives in the U.S. and had U.S.-born children.
But after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks, the U.S. government required all boys and men between the ages of 16 and 65 to register if they had entered the U.S. on temporary visas from Muslim nations. Indonesians, coming from the most populous Muslim nation in the world, had to register with the U.S. government, regardless of their religion, or be classified as terrorist fugitives.
The National Security Entry-Exit Registration System program was scrapped last year by President Barack Obama's administration after years of inactivity.
Legislation that would have allowed Indonesian Christians to reopen their U.S. asylum bids failed to win congressional approval.
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