Indonesian Immigrants Fight Religious Persecution, Still Face Deportation

Throngs of Indonesian refugees currently face deportation charges. The individuals, who mainly came to the country on U.S. tourist visa

s, traveled to the United States to escape religious persecution from within their homeland, where some did not accept their Christian faith. Christian Indonesians fled Indonesia by the hundreds in the 1990s and early 2000s due to their lack of a right to freely practice their faith.

While the United States has long been a host to individuals exiled by their home country for their spiritual practices, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has begun cracking down on this specific ethnic and spiritual group.

In Highland Park, New Jersey, many who face deportation charges have sought refuge at the Reformed Church of Highland Park, where Reverend Seth Kaper-Dale is currently holding and working to save many Indonesian refugees in his church. There are currently 80 Indonesian refugees in New Jersey alone.

The irony of the decision is hard to overlook: Some of the United States’ first immigrants, the Pilgrims, came to the country to escape religious persecution in their homeland. According to the Smithsonian, a group of French colonists also came to the United States for more freedom to practice their Protestant faith.

Charbel Chehoud, a Lebanese refugee who also left his homeland due to religious persecution, is also up for deportation. According to New York Daily News, Chehoud, who arrived in Jersey City, New Jersey in 1989, is an immigration case that is particularly problematic. A co-worker came to Chehoud in 2006, telling him of a terrible case in which a fellow fishing buddy had been thrown overboard and left to die. Chehoud immediately reported the case to law officials, putting the two men responsible behind bars. While Jersey City police officers have urged the ICE to grant Chehoud a witness visa, this particular immigration form is only available if requested by a state or federal agency.