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Trump Administration Deports Indonesian Christian Facing Persecution at Home

An agreement reached with the Obama administration allowed a number of men to stay, as long as they checked in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement

immigration seth kaper-dale
Credit: Matt Katz/WNYC News
Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale, who advocates for Indonesian Christians now facing deportation, rallied last week outside the federal immigration offices in Newark.

The Trump administration's aggressive approach to deporting those who overstay their visas means an Indonesian Christian who has lived in New Jersey for 16 years will be sent home as soon as today. 

Arino Massie is part of a group of dozens of Indonesian men who fled to New Jersey, overstayed their visas, and dodged deportation several times to avoid being sent home, where they say they face persecution. Just last week, a former governor of Jakarta — a Christian of the same ethnic Chinese minority as these men — was sent to prison for blasphemy for insulting Islam. 

Several years ago, Massie and other Indonesian Christian men took refuge at the Reformed Church of Highland Park, living there for nearly a year as their pastor, Seth Kaper-Dale, worked with the Obama administration to keep them in the country. An agreement was reached: The men could stay, as long as they periodically checked in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

As WNYC reported last week, that approach was abruptly reversed last week when four men were arrested by ICE and detained at the privately run immigration facility in Elizabeth. This week, the hold on Massie's deportation — as put into effect by the Obama administration — was lifted, according to Kaper-Dale. He will return to Indonesia as soon as today. The three other men remain detained in Elizabeth, waiting possible deportation.

ICE spokesman Luis Martinez said he could not discuss Massie's case because he had not signed a Department of Homeland Security "privacy waiver." 

On Wednesday ICE released statistics saying that the Trump administration had so far deported more than 40,000 people "known or suspected of being in the country illegally," a 38 percent increase over the same period last year.

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