ICE Director Morton: Stop Deporting Persecuted Christian Indonesian Saul Timisela
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Recent update on Saul's case. A letter from Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale below.
Dear Church Family,
I'm writing to you with some very bad news. Saul Timisela was detained this morning and he is now in Elizabeth Detention Center.
TONIGHT, MONDAY AT 8PM, WE WILL HAVE A CANDLELIGHT VIGIL FOR SAUL AND FOR HIS WIFE JULIANA.
For 6 months Saul never left the church property-March-Sept. Since September Saul has occasionally driven off the property, to take his wife to get a ride to work with others in her company. He leaves at 5:30am and comes back immediately afterwards. Today, as he left our parking lot, ICE was waiting for him. He was followed for a mile and then pulled over.
We are not critical of ICE officers for doing their job. ICE has been respectful of Sanctuary in the church, and for that we are grateful. We have always told folks in sanctuary that if they leave the church property they leave at their own risk. We, the church, do not want to be thought of as disrespecting the great gift we have here in this country that the government respects our sacred space.
We wish that Saul and Juliana had requested help with rides to work so that Saul wouldn't have been at risk. Surely they do too.
With that first acknowledgement of our own failures, we do, however, wish to express our deep frustration and dismay with President Obama and his Administration for their failure to show care and concern for persecuted Christians. At this time when the American Embassy is closed in Indonesia, because of religiously motivated violence, we would hope that temporary protective status, or some such special discretion, could be shown to the Indonesians for whom we care. We have asked, endlessly, for attention and care to be shown, and for over a year we have been denied. We are very upset that the Public Advocate, Andrew Lorenzen-Strait, promised to review Saul's case in early July, and never did it. Nor has he reviewed the cases of 12 others who we were promised would have elevated cases reviewed.
Also, we are deeply critical of the Newark Field Office, and in particular, the Field Office Director, for his refusal to use the Prosecutorial Discretion memo from last June 17th in a fair and balanced way. His use of it is arbitrary and capricious, and has created the mess in which we find ourselves.
Failures of government, both in Washington and in Newark, have resulted in the likely removal of Saul Timisela. All this happens while Saul's wife Juliana is just 1 ½ months away from her own master hearing for her own asylum case.
Please come tonight and show your love for Saul and Juliana and learn how you can recommit to the cause of Sanctuary.
What Saul and Juliana mostly want is prayer--and tonight, that is what we will give them.
Peace, Pastor Seth
Saul Timisela has sought Sanctuary at the Reformed Church of Highland Park, N.J., relinquishing both his job (and source of income for his family) and his personal freedom, rather than being deported to Indonesia. Saul has been the longest staying resident in Sanctuary, his refuge quickly approaching one-hundred-and-twenty-seven days. He is defying an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) order for deportation because he seeks not only freedom from religious persecution that he personally experienced in his homeland, but also relief from Indonesian policies and increased violence which would prevent him from living a life of adequate dignity and economic stability.
Saul arrived legally in the U.S. in 1998, on a visitor's visa, during the height of rampant government and social instability and violence which escalated when the Suharto regime fell. “In Indonesia, I wasn't able to have a steady job, medical benefits or security for a future life. You cannot live like that for a long time if you want to build a family,” notes Saul. In a country whose Muslim population accounted for 90% of the religious demographics then, and 10% for all other religions including Christianity, having a normal life proved to be hard—Indonesia requires that a person's religion must be listed on his or her government-issued ID card. “I studied Sociology and social practice through the Department of Politics at university, but most jobs available for my kind of study were government jobs, and the political system started to weaken by then and persecution of ethnic Christians was already happening.”
Saul Timisela is an Indonesian Christian. He sought work and became an experienced Youth Minister of his church, Tanjung Anom Adventist Church, in Surabaya, Indonesia. As a young minister, his church sponsored him to attend international Youth conferences—he was invited to attend an American conference, leading and preparing seminars. By that time, some Muslim denominations were inclined and encouraged to invoke violence toward Christians and other minority religious denominations, often taking to burning motor vehicles near churches. “It [the violence] would make it hard to travel to and from Surabaya so when I received this invitation to travel to America, I accepted.”
Shortly before leaving Indonesia, however, Saul received word from his family that his closest relative—his brother-in-law, who was a Christian pastor—was killed and his body burned in an anti-Christian attack in Ambon. “My family was worried and told me to accept the invitation from my church and stay in the U.S. The violence spread and I was concerned for my safety because I was a Youth Minister,” explains Saul.
After his arrival in the United States and his attendance of the youth conference, Saul obtained a job in the Shipping and Distribution industry, where he worked for over 10 years. “God bless me that I got that job and income.” It provided him with an opportunity for security, which he did not have previously. In 2001, following the September 11th attacks, Saul's company sent him and his colleagues to Ground Zero to participate in clean-up efforts. He worked for four months at Ground Zero, collecting debris, bringing them to New Jersey, and installing new telecommunications hardware at the site.
After the installation of the NSEERS program by the Department on Homeland Security (DHS) in 2003, officials visited his church and explained that congregants like Saul had to register because they were from one of the predominantly Muslim countries listed in the program criteria. Saul came forward voluntarily to register and elaborates on why he did so: “The Indonesians in my church, including myself, are all Christians. I felt like I had nothing to hide; we were not terrorists, and I thought that I could only benefit by being honest and forward. Certainly, I could only have benefit from this.” Saul has always paid his taxes, and never committed a crime; prior to his residing in Sanctuary, he was an active member, with his wife, of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in South Plainfield, N.J., ministering a youth program which planned visits to residents of nursing homes, as well as leading singing and fellowship for the youth there.
Saul has gone above and beyond his contribution to the communities in which he has been involved in the United States and can be considered a model citizen of good work ethic, and—above all—retains many of the qualifications of criteria to qualify for relief in, ICE Director, John Morton's June 17, 2011 “Prosecutorial Discretion” memo which promised to re-focus ICE on deporting criminals while keeping those undocumented persons, who significantly contribute to their communities, in the U.S. However, Saul, and others like him, have become entrapped in an immigration system whose quota of 400,000 deportations per year in the last three years leaves scant room for humanitarian concerns.
Although Saul has petitioned the U.S. government for asylum relief, and had been denied solely on the basis of missing the one-year filing deadline (which was implemented in 1998 as part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996), ICE has still denied his request for Prosecutorial Discretion. Saul's health is compromised by several health concerns thought to be related to his clean-up efforts of Ground Zero in 2001; he would not receive sufficient health care if he were to return to Indonesia, as he would not have opportunity for employment.
DESPITE these extraordinary factors and concerns, ICE has referred to Saul, and Christian Indonesians affected by the aforementioned history of religious persecution and discrimination in Indonesia, as a “DEPORTATION PRIORITY.” He refuses to return to Indonesia, a land which is not his “home” and in which he was not welcome and where he cannot worship freely and freely share his faith, live a life of dignity, and successfully contribute his knowledge. Since 1995, 1,700 churches have been destroyed and persecution persists to this day.
ICE'S PRIORITIZATION of deporting Christian Indonesians has amounted to 9 being torn from our Central NJ community since January 1, 2012. Watch a film about their situation at http://brokenasylumfilm.com
Saul's faith that God will find a way where there seems to be no way has inspired our small community in Central New Jersey to advocate and work tirelessly for them and Christian Indonesians across the country. A big job for our small group! We need YOUR help. Learn more at http://keepfamiliestogether.com
Along with 11 members of the U.S. Congress, including Carolyn Maloney and Yvette Clarke from N.Y. and Frank Pallone and Rush Holt from N.J., we urge ICE to stay deportations for Saul and Indonesian families while a bill our Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale helped write—the Indonesian Refugee Family Protection Act—is being considered in both the House of Representatives and Senate. Senator Frank Lautenberg introduced S-3339, while Ms. Maloney and Mr. Pallone introduced HR-3590, now supported by 18 Representatives. It allows Indonesians who fled from 1997-2003 a chance to file for asylum without the 1-year deadline that has kept their cases from being heard.
US HOUSE OF REPS. Colleagues urge ICE to prevent Indonesian Christian Refugees from being deported back to a life of persecution in their homeland. http://maloney.house.gov/press-release/rep-maloney-joins-house-colleagues-urging-ice-prevent-indonesian-christian-regugees
THE NEW YORK TIMES A Sanctuary Amid Fears of Persecution at Home. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/nyregion/reformed-church-gives-sanctuary-to-indonesians-ordered-to-be-deported.html
THE STAR LEDGER NJ Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes introduced a state resolution to enact HR-3590 http://www.mycentraljersey.com/article/20120511/NJNEWS/305110070/Assemblyman-visits-Indonesian-immigrants-Highland-ParkHUFFINGTON POST NY Rep. Carolyn Maloney, visited the immigrants and said, "They fled violence, they fled the burning and the raids of their religious sanctuaries. I think it's just the fair and just thing to allow them their day in court."http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/06/indonesian-immigrants-pastor-congress-church_n_1409248.html
WASHINGTON POST Minister sees no choice but to fight for refugees. http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/minister-sees-no-choice-but-to-fight-for-refugees/2012/04/05/gIQAbJmrxS_story.html
THE NEW REPUBLIC Broken Promises: How Obama's Immigration Failures Have Put A New Jersey Community On Edge http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/101307/immigration-indonesians-new-jersey
CHRISTIAN POST Indonesian Christians Facing Deportation in US Appeal to Obama http://www.christianpost.com/news/indonesian-christians-facing-deportation-in-us-appeal-to-obama-69540/
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