Riker Danzig won asylum for a set of Indonesian Christian clients in a pro bono matter on December 2, 2022. The clients, devout Seventh-day Adventists who came to the U.S. from Indonesia in 1996 due to religious persecution, were part of a larger group of approximately 50-75 Indonesian Christians in Central New Jersey who came seeking asylum at that time. However, they were denied asylum and received orders of removal. In 2009, with the assistance of church leaders, an agreement was negotiated with ICE pursuant to which this class of Indonesian Christians were required to check in with ICE annually in exchange for non-enforcement of the orders of removal.
But in 2017, without any warning, ICE began detaining members of this class when they appeared for their check-ins or at other public places, including school drop-off for their children. In February 2018, the ACLU filed a class habeus action in the District of New Jersey in conjunction with pro bono attorneys from Paul Weiss, claiming that the enforcement of the orders of removal violated the class members’ due process rights, and seeking a stay of the enforcement of the orders of removal on the grounds that the class members should be given the opportunity to reopen their removal proceedings on changed country conditions grounds, and then seek asylum. The changed conditions were a dramatic uptick in violence against Christians in Indonesia, particularly for those of Chinese descent. A stay was entered, and the ACLU then sought out multiple law firms to provide pro bono representation to the individual class members to have their proceedings reopened.
Riker Danzig answered the call to represent individual class members on a pro bono basis, representing three sets of clients and collaborating with numerous other law firms in filing motions to reopen their proceedings. In 2021, we received confirmation that the motions to reopen their asylum proceedings had been granted for our three sets of clients. We have continued to serve as their pro bono counsel in their asylum applications, resulting in the favorable ruling for one set to date, only the second in the class to proceed with their applications. The Immigration Court determined that they had demonstrated a well-founded fear of persecution based on the immense evidence we provided that documented the significant decline in conditions for evangelical Christians in Indonesia. Riker Danzig associate Cristin M. Boyle represented the clients, along with co-counsel Michael Crowley, formerly of Riker Danzig.
Riker Danzig was a recipient of the 2019 Legal Leadership Award by the ACLU of New Jersey for our pro bono work on behalf of these Indonesian Christians at risk of deportation. We had worked together with other law firms assisting the ACLU-NJ in filings to prevent their deportation, which the ACLU-NJ characterized as an “unprecedented collaboration” in providing critical legal representation to this vulnerable immigrant community.
For media coverage of the plight of the Indonesian Christians, including coverage of the significant bipartisan political support, see:
Cristin M. Boyle