Reps. Pallone, Maloney Reintroduce Bill to Help Indonesian Refugees Seeking Asylum

May 26, 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C.— This week, Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) and Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) reintroduced legislation that would allow certain Indonesian refugees to reopen asylum claims if they were previously rejected for missing the one-year filing deadline. Indonesian Christians who fled their native country to avoid religious persecution are now facing deportation after years of living, working, and paying taxes in the United States. The legislation reintroduced today, the Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act, would provide a legal avenue for these individuals to reapply for asylum in the U.S.

“Recently in my congressional district we have seen four men who fled religious persecution in Indonesia face detainment, with one already being deported,” said Rep. Pallone. “These individuals have become valuable members of their community and it is a tragedy for them and their families to be split apart. I am proud to re-introduce legislation, along with my colleagues, which would reopen the opportunity for these individuals to apply for asylum here in the U.S. and avoid having to return to religiously motivated violence and intolerance.”

“How can we turn our backs on those fleeing religious persecution? The United States must provide refuge for and support a process that fairly considers their claims,” said Rep. Maloney. “These individuals came to this country to escape extreme violence born out of hate and intolerance for their religious beliefs. We must not force them to return to that brutality due to a paperwork error. This bill does not, in itself, grant asylum, but does prevent families from being ripped apart by removing a procedural barrier. I’m proud to reintroduce this necessary and humanitarian bill with Rep. Pallone.”

Last week, Arino Massie, an Indonesian refugee who had been detained along with three other Indonesian men, was deported. Massie and the others fled from religious persecution in the 1990s. The Indonesian nationals are ethnic Chinese Christians, who were denied asylum on a technicality. The men and their families previously claimed sanctuary at the Reformed Church of Highland Park. Congressman Pallone denounced the detainment of the men earlier this month. He also sent a letter to ICE asking that it use “prosecutorial discretion” and contacted ICE to ask that it reverse its decision.

The Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act would grant qualifying Indonesians whose asylum applications were denied solely based upon failure to meet the one-year application filing deadline an additional two-year window to reopen their asylum claims. The legislation was first introduced in the 112th Congress.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, many Indonesian Christians came to the U.S. on tourist visas when religious persecution in Indonesia escalated, resulting in extreme violence and destruction of Christian churches. Many of these families have lived, worked, and paid taxes in the U.S. for years and now have children who are U.S. citizens. A number of these families have settled in areas surrounding Highland Park, New Jersey, where they have become a part of the community.

At the request of the U.S. government, many of these Indonesians registered with the government under a program requiring the registration of non-citizen males from certain countries following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Following this registration, the government began deportation proceedings against some Indonesians who had overstayed their visas. These deportations and threatened deportations have caused fear in the Indonesian community that family members will have to return to Indonesia, where they could again face religious persecution.