A federal judge in Boston has delayed efforts by US immigration officials to deport a group of unauthorized Indonesian immigrants in New Hampshire, extending a September injunction that temporarily stayed their removal.
Chief US District Judge Patti B. Saris ruled Monday that it was within her jurisdiction to continue the stay, saying efforts to deport the Indonesian immigrants violated their constitutional rights to have their cases reviewed.
Federal law gives authority over immigration policies to the executive branch. But Saris said federal authorities are not permitted to deport immigrants before they can appeal the decision.
“The government shall inform the court whether petitioners, who are not detained, will have access to emergency procedures if they must file their original motions to reopen,” Saris wrote.
The group fighting to stay in the United States consists of 51 Christian Indonesians who claim that returning to their Muslim-majority homeland would put their lives at risk. In early August, the immigrants were told they had to report to federal authorities within 30 days with a plane ticket to Indonesia. In September, they filed suit to challenge their deportation.
Under a 2010 federal program, roughly 100 undocumented Indonesians were allowed to work and live in the United States provided they checked in regularly with authorities. In 2011, authorities told immigrants who did not have children or spouses who were American citizens, or had health issues, that they were to be deported. But immigrants were given a chance to have an in-person interview with Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities. After the interviews, ICE told some immigrants they had to return to their homeland within 90 days.
This summer, however, immigrants were not given the same notice, which they said prevented them from “exercising their due process rights.”
New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen said in a statement that she was encouraged by the judge’s ruling.
“The court made the right call — those who are threatened by deportation should have every opportunity to make their case to remain in their communities,” Shaheen said. “New Hampshire should continue to be a sanctuary to the Indonesian community that fled religious persecution. Deporting these individuals will needlessly split families and communities, and put lives in danger.”
Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project, said the “court’s ruling reaffirms the central role the judiciary plays in our constitutional system.”
“The court properly rejected the government’s contention that the judiciary is powerless to ensure that immigrants receive due process before they are sent back to potential persecution and torture,” said Gelernt, who represented the immigrants.
Gelernt said he did not expect the legal dispute to be resolved quickly.
“They still have a long fight ahead of them,” he said.