United States

West Hartford Man Leaves Sanctuary of Meriden Church After Year and a Half

A West Hartford man and Fulbright Scholar who has been fighting deportation to Indonesia on Friday walked out of the church where he sought sanctuary a year and a half ago.  

Sujitno Sajuti has been living at The Unitarian Universalist Church in Meriden and will be walking out after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement granted him deferred action and no longer seeks to deport him, according to U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal. 

According to Sajuti, he had no income while he was in sanctuary. Church members assembled what he needed, from bedding to food. They also brought in medical care and legal counseling for the 70-year-old.

Sajuti added that he has spent much of the last 20 months in sanctuary praying.

Congregants said for the first year, they held watch every night.

“We were concerned that because there were Muslims, there might be some Islamophobia. We were concerned that ICE agents might come to the door,” said Dr. Jan Carlsson-Bull, a reverend at the Unitarian Universalist Church where Sajuti sought sanctuary.

Lawyers said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials now believe Sajuti was the victim of a crime. 

According to Sajuti's attorney, he was robbed at gunpoint in the mid 90's. Now they've found the police report to prove it, which qualifies Sajuti for a special visa.

“Following a determination that Sajuti qualifies for a legal immigrant visa, ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations does not anticipate pursuing enforcement action in this case at this time,“ a statement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement said.

An Indonesian man living in Connecticut and facing deportation on Tuesday took refuge in a Meriden church.

Sajuti, who is originally from Indonesia, came to U.S. in 1981 as a Fulbright Scholar and pursued a Ph.D. at the University of Connecticut. But after his visa expired, a federal immigration judge eventually ordered him to leave in 2003. 

He has lived in West Hartford for more than 40 years with his wife, Dahlia. Dahlia visited her husband every day for the past 20 months, only going back to their West Hartford apartment to sleep. 

Blumenthal joined Sajuti, his family and supporters at the church Friday afternoon.

“Never give up, never back down, never give up,” said Blumenthal, who encouraged those celebrating Sajuti’s victory to remember that there is still more work to be done.

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