Judge halts deportation for Indonesian men seeking asylum in NJ

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METUCHEN -

A judge temporarily halted deportation proceedings for Indonesian immigrants who have been avoiding deportation by seeking refuge in New Jersey.

The order Friday was issued by U.S. District Judge Esther Salas in Newark in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and applies to Indonesians who have orders of removal dating to before 2009.

The order affects roughly 50 people in New Jersey who had identified themselves to Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2009 as part of a program to obtain work authorization and stays of deportation, according to the ACLU and Seth Kaper-Dale, co-pastor of a church where some of the immigrants sought sanctuary.
  
The order includes Harry Pangemanan, Roby Sanger and Gunawan Liem. Pangemanan says he is happy, especially for his two daughters who are American citizens.

"They know that their parents cannot be sent away for the time being, and that's something that makes them happy," he says.

As News 12 has reported, Pangemanan fled to the Reformed Church of Highland Park after spotting ICE agents staked outside his home while attempting to drive his daughter to school.

While he got away, Sanger and Liem were detained by ICE after taking their kids to school. They're still being held in an Essex County detention center and are all attempting to argue for asylum.

Asma Warsi, an immigration attorney for Sanger and Liem, says the judge's ruling is a game-changer. 

"That gives me time to go to the appellate level and see if we can give these two men I am representing a second chance to file for asylum," he says.

Warsi says the men and their wives fled Indonesia because they feared for their lives. Their safety could be in jeopardy if sent back. 

"The country has become much more polarized. Religious minorities, particularly Christians, are being targeted in a way they hadn't been prior," he says.

It would be six to eight weeks before arguments for asylum are heard by a judge. Attorneys must first petition the Board of Immigration Appeals in Washington to have the cases sent back to New Jersey.

Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.

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