Indonesian Christian who hid in New Jersey church for 8 months to avoid deportation nabbed by feds

By Erica Pearson / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Monday, October 15, 2012, 5:15 PM.

Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale has been supporting Indonesian immigrant Saul Timisela and offered him a place to stay at the Reformed Church of Highland Park, New Jersey. The former factory worker has now been detained and faces deportation. He says that his brother-in-law, a pastor, was dismembered by anti-Christian assailants, who then burnt down his church.

He spent eight months hiding out in a New Jersey church to avoid being deported — but the feds caught up with Saul Timisela Monday.

The Indonesian immigrant, who had been bedding down at the Reformed Church of Highland Park, thought he could slip out undetected before dawn to drive his wife to her work carpool, the church’s pastor told the Daily News.

But Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers tailed Timisela after he left the church’s parking lot, pulled him over and detained him, the pastor said.

“His wife is in pieces. She cannot stop crying,” said the Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, who has opened his church as a sanctuary to area Indonesian Christians facing deportation and still has seven immigrants living inside.

ICE does not generally raid “sensitive” locations like houses of worship.

Before being detained, Timisela had been at the church the longest of the nine Indonesians living at the church as a sanctuary against deportation.

“I think we’re just sort of buckling down again. We’re reminded this is not a game,” said Kaper-Dale.

“It’s our fault that he went off the property. But man, this did not have to go on like this. They could have made it right.”

Timisela, 46, is being held at Elizabeth Detention Center. ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Timisela initially skipped a March 1 deportation appointment and started camping out in a Sunday school classroom at the church because he says he fears returning to the country he fled more than a decade ago. The factory worker told The News that anti-Christian assailants in Indonesia dismembered his pastor brother-in-law and burnt down his church.

Like dozens of other area Indonesian immigrants, Timisela overstayed a tourist visa and missed the one-year deadline to apply for asylum. In 2009, Kaper-Dale and ICE brokered reprieves for many.

But starting late last year, the agency renewed only some of the reprieves and started deporting other Indonesians. They consider Timisela a deportation priority because he once agreed to leave in 2006 but did not follow through.

At one point, nine immigrants were living in Kaper-Dale’s church to avoid deportation. One, 60-year-old Oldy Manopo, got a one-year reprieve last month. After Timisela’s detention, seven remain.

“We’ll see how long people can last,” Kaper-Dale said.

“It’s been a long time. We have homeowners who have real-life expenses who have been stuck in our building and unable to work.”

Indonesian Christian who hid in New Jersey church for 8 months to avoid deportation nabbed by feds - NY Daily News