Meriden community rally around couple who has sought sanctuary inside church one year ago

MERIDEN -- Tuesday marked one year since an elderly couple facing deportation first sought sanctuary inside a Meriden church.

The community rallied to show support for their case that was never resolved.

Sujitno and Dahlia Sajuti are from Indonesia and for the past 30 years, they have spent most of their life in West Hartford teaching, something the community has really cherished.

Since October 2017, the Sajuti's have made the Unitarian Universalist Church their home after immigration officials ordered them to go back to their home country.

Most families would find this traumatizing, but the Sajuti's have found peace through the situation by giving back to the community.

Reverend Dr. Jan Carlsson-Bull has had a front-row seat in the couple's life inside the church and described them as proactive and hardworking.

"Sujitno has taught Indonesian culture in Hartford and Dahlia has taught Indonesian cuisine and when you come into this meeting house sometimes, your nose leads you into the kitchen because she is a master chef," said Carlsson-Bull.

People of various ethnic and religious backgrounds united in the small room and showed support in endorsing the couple to remain in the United States.

Sujitno said his faith and prayers have allowed him to make sense of it all.

"For me, it’s not a big deal because I always study. I go to the library and back so I’m stuck in the library," said Sujitno.

Sujitno came to the United States in 1981 as a Fullbright scholar and overstayed his visa.

During that time, he got his master's degree at Columbia University and went back to Indonesia for a brief period. He then came to the United States in 1989 to get his PhD at UConn and instead of returning to Indonesia this time, Sujitno stayed in West Hartford.

"Teaching people, I teach Indonesian, I teach religion, nighttime I work," added Sujitno.

In 2003, a Federal Judge ordered the couple to leave and they were arrested in 2011 by immigration officials. Since then, he was living in West Hartford with temporary stay status until August of last year.

"Government policy in this country is so erratic and right now, it’s downright oppressive. It’s downright oppressive and most of the people in power are immigrants or the sons and daughters or grandsons or granddaughters of immigrants" added Carlsson Bull.