A U.S. District Court judge in Concord issued an order this week halting the deportation of a 53-year-old Indonesian woman who'd been living in Portsmouth.
Etty Tham fled religious persecution in her home country almost two decades ago. During a Memorial Day Weekend Border Patrol checkpoint on I-93 in the White Mountains, she was detained by immigration officials. Tham was on the way home from vacation with her granddaughters. Her daughter Sylvia Parker, who was also in the car, says it was a traumatic experience for the family.
"Especially for the kids, I mean especially for my daughter, because she saw everything,” Parker says. “She was crying at the time when she was detained."
William Hahn, Tham’s lawyer, says he's currently looking into applying to reopen her asylum case, which was previously denied.
Last week, 44 of a total 51 Indonesians named in a class action suit received notice that the U.S. Department of Justice would grant motions to reopen their asylum cases. “Etty Tham’s case is very similar to those people,” Hahn says. “It was the same thing, probably 10 or more years ago -- for most of them -- their asylum applications were denied.”
Tham has been held at the Strafford County Department of Corrections for more than three months and received notification that she would be deported this week.
Parker, her daughter, works as a nurse at Portsmouth Regional Hospital. She says Tham is a diabetic and worries that changes in her medication regimen while incarcerated could negatively affect her health.
“It’s safe in there, but it’s not a good thing, especially for her illness,” Parker says.
Rev. Sandra Pontoh, a pastor at the Maranatha Indonesian United Church of Christ and a longtime advocate for New Hampshire’s Indonesian community, has visited with Tham at the Dover jail.
“She cries and cries because she misses the family,” Pontoh says. “She wants to be there, she wants to take care of her grandchildren.”
Now that the deportation order has been temporarily halted, Hahn says he's asking ICE to “rethink their position on further incarceration.”
A hearing in Tham’s federal court case is scheduled for October.