U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., said she would “welcome” a conversation with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials on the status of Etty Tham, an Indonesian woman who has been detained since May after she was picked up at an immigration checkpoint.
“I just think it’s not fair,” Shea-Porter said. “On a personal level, I’m surprised and can’t understand this. I would certainly welcome a conversation with ICE on this to see what the problem is. We’re in contact with her attorney on this and we’d welcome a call from ICE as well.”
Shea-Porter made her remarks Wednesday morning at a naturalization ceremony for new U.S. citizens at the University of New Hampshire.
In a statement Tuesday, Shea-Porter called the continued detention of Tham at the Strafford County jail in Dover “unconscionable.” She also said the detention ignores a federal judge’s request to have her released from a county jail and differs from the way ICE handles these types of cases.
Earlier this month, a federal judge temporarily halted Tham’s deportation. Tham entered the U.S. in the early 2000s and overstayed a tourist visa. A petition for asylum was denied. A hearing on her status will be held at the U.S. District Court in Concord Oct. 18. Shea-Porter on Wednesday said she has not received an explanation from ICE as to why Tham is being held.
“We don’t understand why she should be held,” she said. “She’s an older woman, a grandmother and she has diabetes. She’s not a risk. It’s puzzling to us. We felt it was important to put our voice to it.”
An online petition started by Maggie Fogarty of the American Friends Service Committee, demanding ICE release Tham, had received 230 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon. Tham has long lived locally, most recently in Portsmouth, according to her family, who recently spoke out on her case.
Earlier this month, upwards of 50 local Indonesians had deportation orders stayed to allow them to re-apply for asylum because of changed conditions for Christians in Indonesia.
Shea-Porter wondered why other Indonesians in situations similar to Tham’s have not been detained while Tham remains in custody.
“For whatever reason, it’s mysterious to us why she hasn’t been released,” she said. “The others have. We haven’t been given any explanation for this.”