A group of Indonesian Christians and their supporters are calling for the passage of a federal bill that was introduced in the House of Representatives last week that would give them protection from religious persecution and a way to prevent parents from being separated from their American-born children. This law would benefit hundreds of Indonesians who fled to the U.S. but waited too long to file claims for asylum, by allowing them to reapply. Many Indonesian Christians came to the U.S. in the late 1990s but made the mistake of waiting for more than a year to apply for asylum, for reasons that were mainly related to economic reasons. When they eventually applied most were denied only because they had missed the deadline. That is the group targeted by the bill being co-sponsored by New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney and New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone Jr.
In recent months, more than 70 Indonesian immigrants in New Jersey have received deportation warning letters form the Department of Homeland Security or have been told to report to local ICE offices and bring a one-way ticket to Indonesia with them. More than 100 Indonesians in New Hampshire have received similar warnings and more than 20 in the New York City area are concerned that they will be next to be called up on the list. One woman expressed her pleas in a letter that reads: “Dear Mr. President Obama, I love this country, I love my church- the Reformed Church of Highland Park. Let our family together stay in here together. I will not take [my two American-born daughters who are 9 and 5 years old] to Indonesia. They have a strong Christian faith. They will not be quiet. Jakarta is too dangerous for the faithful Christians.” It is true that the Indonesian government has gone to far lengths to terrorize those who are not a part of the Muslim majority, setting many churches aflame.
Many Indonesians in the U.S. have been benefiting from a conditional agreement with U.S. immigration authorities that has allowed them to live and work legally in the country for many years, but now they are ready to have their stake in this country made official. “We’re here to encourage the Congress of these United States to do everything in its power to get behind the Indonesian Family Justice Act with great gusto,” said a spokesperson. Without intervention, some families will be compelled to leave their children behind with relatives or in the care of the state since taking them with them to Indonesia would mean subjecting them to discrimination and possibly even physical harm because of their beliefs and because they are American-born. Our hearts go out to these families, and although it is hard to say what the outcome of this situation will be, we hope that Congress will do what is right by them.