ELIZABETH, N.J. — A Christian man who had been living in the United States for 16 years after fleeing religious persecution in Indonesia has been deported back to the country, immigration officials said.
Arino Massie was deported to Indonesia on Thursday after being held at the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey since last week, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials. Massie leaves behind his wife and a 13-year-old son, who is a U.S. citizen.
Massie was one of four Indonesian Christian men who were detained by ICE after checking in with officials in Newark. The other three men remain in detention. They all escaped religious persecution in Indonesia in the 1990s.
About 50 supporters rallied outside of the Elizabeth Detention Center on Thursday afternoon, but he already had been sent to Indonesia, NJ.com reported.
The former Metuchen resident does not have a criminal record. He was ordered deported years ago, but allowed to stay in the country as long as he checked in with immigration officials periodically.
Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, of The Reformed Church of Highland Park, led Massie’s group of supporters. The gubernatorial candidate stressed Massie’s unique situation.
“There’s no reason to send him away right now; he’s absolutely not a criminal,” Kaper-Dale said. “These are family people who happen to have final deportation orders.”
Under Republican President Donald Trump, the scope of those subject to deportation was broadened. In many cases, even people who don’t have criminal records are no longer allowed to stay in the U.S., Kaper-Dale said.
“Our folks got caught up in that new dragnet,” he said.
Democrat U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone sent a letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials asking them to allow the men to remain in the country. Pallone cited the group’s original agreement with immigration officials.
ICE spokesman Luis Martinez confirmed Massie’s deportation but did not comment further on the case.
A court filing by Massey’s attorney seeking permission for his client to remain in the United States was denied Thursday morning, Kaper-Dale said.
Massie waved goodbye to the U.S. a few hours later.