According to the Wall Street Journal, U.S. Senator Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey has introduced a bill that would help Indonesians who have fled religious persecution by anti-Christian extremists in the majority Muslim nation.
“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,” Senator Lautenberg said to WSJ.
Between 1996 and 2003, the U.S. government allowed hundreds of Indonesian Christians to seek assylum in America through tourist visas because more than 1,000 churches were destroyed by anti-Christian extremists. This occurred during the aftermath of the fall of the regime of longtime dictator Suharto. Those who sought assylum in the U.S. came to New Jersey, New York and New Hampshire, and began working and raising families.
After 9/11, immigrant men between 16 and 65 years of age from predominantly Muslim countries who entered the U.S. on temporary visas were required to register with the government or be classified as terrorist fugitives, according to the article.
Many who registered did not expect to face deported, but they are.
Senator Lautenberg’s bill would allow them to re-apply for asylum. It would not grant them amnesty. Democratic U.S. representatives Carolyn Maloney of NY and Frank Pallone Jr. of NJ have introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.
The New Jersey Assembly unanimously passed a resolution endorsing federal legislation to help Indonesians last week.