Lautenberg To Introduce Bill For Indonesian Refugees Seeking Asylum

Sen. Frank Lautenberg

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Senator Frank R. Lautenberg announced that he will introduce legislation next week to allow certain Indonesians who came to the U.S. to reopen claims for asylum. Many Indonesians, including a number of families in New Jersey, fled their native country to avoid religious persecution.

“These Indonesian families sought refuge in our country to keep their families safe from harm and religious persecution,” said Lautenberg (D-NJ). “America has a long history of protecting refugees from persecution and this legislation gives these families a chance to legally seek asylum and to continue contributing to our country.”

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, 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 Sept. 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 New Jersey Indonesian community that family members will have to return to Indonesia, where they could again face religious persecution.

Lautenberg’s bill, which would allow these Indonesians a chance to reopen their claims for asylum, is a companion to legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).

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