Christian Indonesians Live In NJ Church's Sanctuary to Avoid Deportation


Mario Rumengang's father, Mariano, was deported in March. Mario came to the United States when he was 7 years old. He's unemployed but has filed under President Obama's Differed Action Program for Childhood Arrivals. He has two daughters, 4 and 5 years old, both born in the United States.

Mario worries about his father's safety, saying, "I believe that he can be hurt. That's the only thing I worry about. He could be driving somewhere. He could be stopped by a gang asked if he's a Christian or a Muslim. They are extremists, they could torture or kill him."

The 28-year-old hopes that any future immigration reform would allow his father to soon return to America, so his family can once again be together.

On Thursday, Kaper-Dale had a conference call with ERO Chief Gary Mead. He says he had expected resolution of the remaining eight cases, which he sees as identical to the 55 others granted stays this year. Kaper-Dale says that Mead refuses to grant them prosecutorial discretion and insists that the eight, despite some being in sanctuary, will be deported back to Indonesia.

Michelle Brané says, "They are in a Catch-22, whatever outcome they have is detrimental to their children. The reality is that these US citizen children can be really harmed by these decisions."

Kaper-Dale has worked closely with several lawmakers in an attempt to get legislation to help the thousands of Christian Indonesians he says live in the United States.

Rep Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., filed HR.3590, "A bill to allow certain Indonesian citizens to file a motion to reopen their asylum claims."

Today, she tells ABC News, "It's more than a shame that another Christmas holiday is passing with this issue unresolved by Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials. These Indonesian Christians, who fled religious persecution at home, are now suffering the indignities of what can only be described as bureaucratic persecution here in America, a nation founded by those seeking religious freedom."

Maloney adds, "For the five Indonesians who have taken sanctuary in a Highland Park, N.J., church -- and the more than 4,000 nationwide who risk deportation -- ICE should exercise its prosecutorial discretion to grant stays of removal, renew those that have expired, and allow Congress time to pass my legislation to reopen the window to apply for permanent asylum."

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., and Gutierrez were the first to cosponsor the bill. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., filed a version of the bill in the Senate, S.3339 -- "Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act." These bills remain in committee and are unlikely to be passed this year by a Congress rushing to try to keep the nation from falling off the fiscal cliff.

Late Friday, Kaper-Dale and other church members reached out to the congressmen for immediate assistance with ICE and the White House. Gutierrez' team appealed to their contacts at ICE, asking "to explain to the congressman why these eight are being treated differently from the others granted discretion."

Gutierrez' staff says he plans on working with Maloney and others who have shown leadership on the issue in the immediate days ahead to assist the Indonesians.

Gutierrez' team do not expect to hear back from Immigration until after the holiday. This means a Christmas miracle is unlikely for these eight people slated for deportation.

Kaper-Dale reflects, "In this season we talk about how there's 'no room in the inn'. Well there's no room in this inn we call America for immigrant children or their parents. Until this inn opens its doors further, The Reformed Church of Highland Park will continue to provide sanctuary for the fathers."

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