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Indonesian Man Spends Year In Church Sanctuary

Courtesy of Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance and Unitarian Universalist Church in Meriden
Sujitno Sajuti and his wife, Dahlia, as seen in a photo last month. As of Tuesday, Sujitno has spent one year in sanctuary from immigration officials.

One year ago, a former Fulbright Scholar from Indonesia who was living in West Hartford, Connecticut, sought sanctuary from deportation at a church in Meriden. Sujitno Sajuti and his wife, Dahlia, still live in the Unitarian Universalist Church while his case sits before the U.S. immigration court of appeals.

Tuesday evening supporters will gather to mark the anniversary. Alok Bhatt, one of those supporters who works with theConnecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance, said Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, has not considered a stay on Sajuti's deportation order.

“They’re really not budging," Bhatt said of ICE,"I think they feel pretty emboldened and very empowered by really not giving any leeway to an elderly man who has given his better years to educating himself here and trying to pass that education and his own experience forward.”

Bhatt said Sajuti is a scholar who overstayed his student visa.

Sajuti has lived in sanctuary longer than any other immigrant in the state who recently sought relief from deportation at a church.

Another father named Nelson Pinos has sought sanctuary at a church in New Haven since last November, when he was ordered to board a plane back to his native Ecuador. Both men had previously been issued stays of removal at yearly check-ins with ICE before they were issued deportation orders last year.

ICE considers churches, schools, and hospitals sensitive locations where officials will not enter. 

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