US judge gives Indonesian Christians time to fight deportation from New Hampshire

A U.S. federal judge has recently ruled that 50 Indonesian Christians who were residing illegally in New Hampshire should be given some time to fight their deportation orders.

(REUTERS / Brian Snyder / File Photo)Demonstrators hold an "Interfaith Prayer Vigil for Immigrant Justice" outside the federal building, where ethnic Chinese Christians who fled Indonesia after wide scale rioting decades ago and overstayed their visas in the U.S. must check-in with ICE, in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., October 13, 2017.

On Thursday, Feb.2, U.S. District Judge Patti Saris in Boston blocked the government from bringing the Indonesian Christians back to their home country. She said they must be given time to argue their case and show that they could face persecution or harm if they are sent back, The Associated Press relayed.

"This opinion may literally save lives," said American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrants' Right Project attorney Lee Gelernt, who represents the Indonesian Christians. "As the court recognized ... this country's laws do not permit the government to send people back to persecution or torture."

Judge Saris has given the Indonesians 90 days to reopen their case after they receive the documents pertaining to their previous immigration proceedings. This means they cannot be deported until the Board of Immigration Appeals has released a ruling on their cases and they now have a chance to appeal for a stay.

Indonesian community leader Rev. Sandra Pontoh welcomed the ruling as it gave the illegal immigrants a last chance to fight for their stay in the U.S. Gov. Chris Sununu was also pleased with the judge's decision, and vowed to continue fighting for a resolution that would protect the Indonesians from religious persecution.

However, the same could not be said of Indonesian Christians residing illegally in Highland Park, New Jersey. The Asbury Park Press reported that some of them claimed that their passports had been stolen in break-ins while they were seeking sanctuary from deportation at a local church.

Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale of the Reformed Church of Highland Park blamed the break-ins at first on immigration officials. However, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement denied involvement in the incident, saying they do not have the missing passports.