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Dover asks feds not to deport local Indonesians in country illegally

Union Leader Correspondent

October 12. 2017 3:19PM
City councilors in Dover passed a resolution stating that the current presidential administration's policies on deportation will harm innocent children in their community. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

DOVER — City leaders will ask the Trump administration to reverse a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement policy threatening dozens of local Indonesian families with deportation.

Mayor Karen Weston and members of the city council unanimously approved a resolution affirming the city's commitment to immigration and cultural diversity Wednesday night. It states Dover has an unwavering commitment to celebrating and honoring diversity. It states that under the current President's administration, the city's immigrant families "are under a cloud of uncertainty and fear due to the threat of deportation."

"The threat of deportations also envelops innocent children that have been given a safe harbor in our country and in our city," the resolution states.

Before the vote, Weston said families facing deportation have become targets for fraud, schemes promising help and a path to citizenship.

"There are folks who are sitting in this audience tonight who have had an attorney that they thought was going through the process, but it was a scam, and they spent thousands of dollars for that attorney. There's folks here that have had three different attorneys, that again, they were not taking any action. So, what we want is the President and his administration to relook at these laws and to be able to work with some of these families," Weston said.

Weston said she cannot believe city officials would want to separate parents from their children, but that is the harsh reality for some affected by deportation.

Maggie Fogarty, co-director of the New Hampshire chapter of the American Friends Service Committee, is a Dover resident and said Thursday morning she was moved by all who spoke in support of the resolution Wednesday.

"When we don't say out loud what we feel, our silence runs the risk of saying something else," Fogarty said. "It was a lovely evening."

Fogarty also emphasized the strain on the children of the affected families.

"In Dover, we started the school year and students had no idea if they would be in the classroom the next week or not," she said.

During the meeting, 13 residents, including Fogarty, expressed their opinions about the resolution.

Catherine Thompson, a University of New Hampshire alumna, said she moved to Dover three years ago because it is a diverse and welcoming community. Thompson urged the council to adopt the resolution, especially in light of recent racial tensions at UNH.

"I really think that this resolution will go a long way to show (students) that this is a safe community and that this is a strong and good place to come," Thompson said.

Walter King shared his personal story of immigration to America. Born in Hong Kong, he and his parents fled from communism.

"At the time, this country allowed people to immigrate that were facing persecution or physical harm, and my parents qualified for that," King said.

King became a citizen when a congressman in California stepped up to sponsor him and others, he said.

Only one person objected to the resolution as written, resident Mary Hebbard.

"The one word you're missing there is legal immigration. We are a city, a state, a country of laws. We have laws in place and for many years past administrations have overlooked those laws," Hebbard said. "Not all immigrants are the same. Not all are kind and want to be part of this country. Some are criminals."

City Councilor Jason Gagnon said it is unlikely the resolution will change national policy, but he saw the value in passing a resolution reaffirming a commitment to immigration and diversity. "Do I have any delusion that what we're doing here in Dover is going to change things at a national level? No. It won't. But what it will do, hopefully, it will show the kids and the younger generation here in town that you don't have to listen to that stuff," Gagnon said. "Maybe the next generation from here in Dover will look at that resolution and look at the community we built here and maybe that generation has the chance of getting it right when they start to do things on a national level."

This summer, Immigration and Customs Enforcement started issuing deportation orders to the Indonesians, most of them Christians who had fled Islamic extremism in their country. Some have been living in New Hampshire since the late 1990s.

At the end of September, a federal judge in Boston paused the pending deportation of up to 70 Indonesians living in New Hampshire illegally.

Patti B. Saris, chief justice of the U.S. District Court in Boston, prohibited ICE officials in Boston and Manchester from removing anyone who participated in "Operation Indonesian Surrender."

"All such removals now pending are hereby stayed and shall not proceed until further order of the Court," Saris wrote in a two-page order.

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