Rep. Maloney Joins House Colleagues In Urging I.C.E. To Prevent Indonesian Christian Regugees From Being Deported Back To A Life Of Persecution In Their Homeland

Jul 3, 2012
Press Release

Washington, DC - Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) joined House colleague Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and 11 other House Members in writing to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton urging ICE to re-evaluate its current policy toward deporting a number of Indonesian refugees back to their homeland despite credible claims about the religious persecution they suffered in Indonesia because of their Christian faith. Under ICE’s current policy, the Indonesian Christian refugees are to be deported back to a life of oppression, including an inability to obtain work permits, the burning and closing of their churches, and the threat of up to five years of prison time upon arrival.  

Other Members of Congress who were signatories on the letter included Madeline Bordallo (D-GU), Rep. Yvette Clark (D-NY), Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ),  Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Steve Pascrell (D-NJ), Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Rep. Gregorio Sablan (D-MP), and Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT).

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) have  introduced in the 112th Congress the Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act, H.R. 3590, that would give Christian Indonesian citizens fleeing persecution an opportunity to reopen asylum claims that were denied solely for missing the one-year filing deadline for asylum in the U.S.  Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) introduced a Senate companion bill, S. 3339, last June.  

“As we prepare to celebrate Independence Day, all Americans should reflect on our great nation’s historic role as a safe haven for refugees fleeing persecution on account of their religious or political beliefs. These brave men, women and children who fled religious persecution in Indonesia came to this country seeking relief from extreme violence and persecution for their religious beliefs – and they deserve a chance at asylum,” Congresswoman Maloney said. “It is our hope that Immigration & Customs Enforcement officials will stay deportation proceedings until they can receive a full and fair hearing of their asylum claims.”

“The rationale behind ICE’s policy is hard to justify given the threats these individuals face upon returning to Indonesia.  These individuals came to this country, seeking relief from extreme violence and persecution for their religious beliefs, and deserve a process to fairly consider their claims,” said Congresswoman Maloney. “This letter should emphasize to ICE that we are deeply concerned for Indonesian Christians who face deportation – where they will return to a life of persecution.”

Both the House and Senate legislation would allow Indonesian citizens fleeing persecution, many of whom arrived during a five-year timeframe (January 1, 1997 – November 30, 2002) and were denied asylum solely for missing the one-year filing deadline, the opportunity to reopen their claims during the two-year period following enactment.

Between 1996 and 2003, when most of the persecuted Indonesian Christian refugees arrived in the U.S., over 1,000 Christian houses of worship in Indonesia were bombed, razed and otherwise destroyed by extremists seeking to drive Christians, many of Chinese descent, from Indonesia. Beginning in 1997, many Indonesian Christians fled this religious persecution by coming to the United States on tourist visas that were easily available at the time. However, many of these refugees who overstayed their visas were given inadequate attention and advice from overburdened immigration lawyers and did not file for asylum within the one-year deadline.  Despite some years of relative calm, the persecution has once again escalated, resulting in strong statements regarding violence against religious and ethnic minorities from the U.S. Department of State, the United Nations, and Human Rights Watch, all published within the past year. Nonetheless, in February of this year, the Associated Press reported that many Indonesian Christian refugees had been sent deportation warning letters.

Several Indonesian Christian refugees are currently seeking sanctuary at the Reformed Church of Highland Park in central New Jersey. On Friday, April 6, 2012 – Good Friday – Congresswoman Maloney visited the refugees along with her House colleague, Rush Holt (D-NJ). Along with her colleague Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Congresswoman Maloney has written and introduced a measure, the Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act (H.R. 3590), that would allow the Indonesian Christians to re submit asylum claims if they were initially rejected on procedural grounds.