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West Hartford Man Leaves Sanctuary As ICE Backs Off Of Removal Order

Frankie Graziano
Connecticut Public Radio
Sujitno Sajuti, 70, is leaving a Meriden church behind after staying there for 19 months in order to avoid deportation. Sajuti, a native of Indonesia, was given a final removal order in 2017. But, now he's qualified for a legal immigrant visa.

A West Hartford man who sought refuge from deportation in a Meriden church has left sanctuary.

Sujitno Sajuti, an Indonesian national, has been staying at the Unitarian Universalist Church since October of 2017 to avoid a removal order handed down by federal immigrations and customs enforcement.

“It’s like a dream,” Sajuti said.

ICE is now saying that it doesn’t see further enforcement against Sajuti happening anytime soon because it’s been determined that he qualifies for a legal immigrant visa. United States Sen. Richard Blumenthal said “that’s too little too late – but better late than never.”

“Today is one to celebrate, but also to re-double our resolve that nobody should have go through this kind of self-imposed imprisonment in order to simply seek sanctuary,” Blumenthal said. “ICE has acknowledged that he has a valid claim to stay in this country.”

Credit Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio
Connecticut Public Radio
Sujitno Sajuti and his wife Dahlia pose for a photograph on May 31, 2019 with local residents that comprise what they call a "sanctuary team". These people supported Sajuti while he was staying in a Meriden church for 19 months to avoid deportation.

Sajuti, 70, came to the U.S. on a Fulbright scholarship in 1981, but overstayed his visa. He said if he initially had better representation, ICE wouldn’t have gotten involved.

“My attorney didn’t file the right way in 2001,” Sajuti said.

After receiving several stays, Sajuti ignored a 2017 removal order.

He credited his new attorney for getting him outside of the church for the first time in 19 months.

It’s just in time for the final days of Ramadan. Sajuti said he’s looking forward to prayer out in the open for the remainder of the Islamic holy month.

Frankie Graziano’s career in broadcast journalism continues to evolve.

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