Dozens of Christian Indonesians challenging deportation orders issued last year have reached a milestone in their legal battle.
Yesterday, 44 of a total 51 individuals named in a class action suit from last year received notice that the U.S. Department of Justice would grant motions to reopen their asylum cases.
The Christian Indonesians have been living in New Hampshire for decades and fear religious persecution in Indonesia. They were allowed to overstay their visas for years, granted they regularly checked in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But that changed under the Trump administration.
"The kind of abrupt nature in which the government sought to deport these people really was an issue,” said Nathan Warecki, an attorney representing the group. “We're happy that the Department of Justice agrees and is reopening their cases."
Rev. Sandra Pontoh, a longtime advocate for the community, said the decision from the DOJ is welcome news. “It’s so wonderful, I don’t know how to describe what I’ve been feeling since yesterday,” she said.
But, with court hearings and testimonies to be written, Pontoh also had words of caution for her friends.
"I told them, ‘this is good news, congratulations to everyone, but you know, you cannot stop working hard,’" said Pontoh. She says she’s also grateful for past messages of support from U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, U.S. Rep. Carol Shea Porter, and Gov. Chris Sununu.
“It’s been a great gathering of resources to help these people and it’s a great reflection of the ideals of our state and helping our neighbors,” Warecki said.
Members of the group now wait for their opportunity to go in front of an immigration judge.