Stafford County Courthouse. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.
Stafford County Courthouse. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

An Indonesian woman who failed to seek asylum despite living in the United States for more than 20 years has been temporarily allowed to stay in the country after the presiding judge delayed her order of deportation.

Etty Tham, who is ethnically Chinese and a Christian, said she fled Indonesia as she and her friends faced violence and persecution from the much larger Muslim population in the late 1990s, Seacoast Online reported.

In 2010, she voluntarily filed an application for asylum to the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. A year later, she received a surrender letter, which told her that she was set to be deported in early 2012. She did not surrender, and remained in the country.

On May 27 this year, Tham was identified by officials at an immigrant checkpoint about 90 miles south of the Canadian border. Since then she has been detained at the Strafford County House of Corrections.

According to a report on, Silvia Parker, Tham’s daughter and a US permanent resident, said officials only checked the identity of non-white people at the checkpoint. Parker, a single mother and a night-shift nurse at Portsmouth Regional Hospital, said her mother looked after her two daughters.

Tham was supposed to be deported this week but US District Court Judge Joseph Laplante put a halt to the proceedings.

A further hearing is scheduled for October 18.