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Gov. Sununu pens letter to Trump asking he reconsider Indonesian deportations

New Hampshire Union Leader

October 23. 2017 10:18AM

CONCORD — Gov. Chris Sununu is intervening on behalf of a group of Indonesian immigrants facing deportation, calling on President Donald Trump to reconsider his decision to deport the 69 Dover residents who fled religious persecution and violence against Christians in the late 1990s.

Lawyers representing the group asked a federal judge in Boston on Friday to postpone their deportation, arguing it would put them at risk for persecution, torture or death.

In his letter to Trump, Sununu says the Indonesian families "entered our country legally, have attempted to follow the proper legal immigration process and now face deportation."

After fleeing Indonesia, they entered the United States legally on tourist visas and filed application for asylum. "Their petitions were ultimately rejected for what appear to have been mostly technical deficiencies," writes Sununu, "and they remained in this country undocumented and fearful of returning home."

The group ultimately settled in Dover as part of a larger community of approximately 1,500 people of Indonesian descent. "All are active members of various churches in the Dover area and all have children who were born in this country and are thus citizens of the United States and the State of New Hampshire," according to Sununu's letter.

He points out that in 2010, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen helped develop a program designed to encourage these individuals to come forward and be documented. Those who qualified for the program were told they would be allowed to remain in the United States, but would have to check in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) every three months and apply annually for renewal of their residency status.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration decided to terminate the program and others like it around the country. The 69 individuals in Dover received notification of enforcement of deportation orders requiring them to return to Indonesia.

"We are a nation of laws, yet we have an obligation to enforce our laws fairly and sensibly," writes Sununu. "Our immigration laws are no exception. People such as these 69 individuals who have made an honest attempt to navigate the legal process, who have a valid legal claim for asylum and who have come forward to work with authorities should not be on the front line for deportation."

Sununu called for a more "streamlined and practical" process for legal immigration, especially for those fleeing religious or political persecution. "It is not realistic to expect that those who flee persecution will have the resources to navigate a complicated legal process," he wrote.

Shaheen forwarded copies of the letter to the top officials at the Department of Homeland Security and ICE, as well as the President's deputy national security advisor.

"It's important that the President and his administration understand that there's bipartisan support for keeping these families intact and in New Hampshire, and that we cannot put these families in danger by sending them to a country where religious persecution is a very real threat," she said.

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