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Judge Again Halts Deportation of Indonesians Living in N.H.

Ben Henry / NHPR

 A federal judge in Boston is blocking the government from deporting dozens of Christian Indonesians living in New Hampshire while they're given a chance to fight against their removal.

U.S. District Judge Patti Saris ruled Thursday the Indonesians who fear persecution if returned home should be given time to reopen their cases. Saris said they provided "unrebutted evidence" showing they would risk persecution or torture if deported.

The government had urged the judge not to block their removal.

The Indonesians had been allowed to stay as long as they regularly reported to immigration officials. But in recent months, they were told they should buy plane tickets and prepare to leave the country.

The judge in November blocked their deportation until she could consider their request for a preliminary injunction.

New Hampshire's congressional delegation and the Governor have advocated on behalf of the Indonesians, at least saying the individuals should be allowed to fully petition the government to stay in the state.

U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-NH, called the judge's order a significant development. "Many of these families fled religious persecution in Indonesia, and it is wrong that the Trump administration has been prioritizing them for deportation," she said in a statement.

Gov. Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, hailed the decision as good for the Dover Indonesian community, and the Granite State. "The Federal Court in Boston continues to agree and reaffirm that these cases deserve re-examination," Sununu said in a statement. "I will continue to advocate for a resolution that protects these individuals from religious persecution and allows them to remain in the United States."

U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-NH, also said she would continue to advocate for these families facing religious persecution. 

She and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, live nearby these Indonesian families. Shaheen said the judge's decision to grant a preliminary injunction allows these individuals 90 additional days to submit motions to reopen their asylum cases. "These are men and women who fled persecution and came to the United States to find a safe haven, where they learned our language, found employment and became contributing members of our community," Shaheen said. "I'm relieved there's now a path forward and I'll continue to urge the Trump administration to do the right thing and let these families remain in New Hampshire."

(This article was updated Friday morning with additional statements from Sununu, Shea-Porter, and Shaheen.)

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