Immigration Officials Refuse to Extend Stay for Indonesian Christians Who Fled Persecution

Four Indonesian men, who fled to the U.S. to escape religious persecution more than 20 years ago, were taken into custody by immigration agents.

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Four Indonesian men, who fled to the U.S. to escape religious persecution more than 20 years ago, were taken into custody Monday by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and face deportation.

They were the focus of the national media attention several years ago when they and four other men, who were going to be deported, got sanctuary at the Reformed Church of Highland Park. They stayed in classrooms converted into bedrooms for 11 months, leaving Feb. 14, 2013 when they were granted a “stay of removal,” said the Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, pastor of the church.

The men are part of a community of Indonesian Christians who fled religious persecution in Indonesia in the 1990s and early 2000s and came to the U.S. with tourist visas and stayed when those visas expired.

fter the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the U.S. required men from certain Muslim-majority countries including Indonesia to register with the federal government if they were undocumented.

The men registered and have gone to annual check-ins with ICE since 2013 and each time their stays were extended. But in February, they were asked to return with their passports. They did that and were taken into custody at the Elizabeth Detention Center on Monday.

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