Former Fulbright scholar leaves sanctuary after 598 days

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HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A former Fulbright scholar who has been fighting deportation to his native Indonesia left the sanctuary of a Connecticut church Friday after 598 days.

Sujitno Sajuti had been living inside Meriden’s Unitarian Universalist church with his wife, Dahlia, since being ordered by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2017 to board a plane.

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who accompanied Sajuti as he walked out the front door of the church, said federal authorities have determined that Sajuti was once a victim of a violent crime and therefore qualified for a U visa that will allow him to stay in the United States.

“It is fitting that during this third and final stage of Ramadan, salvation from hell, I’m leaving from a long period of confinement and am finally free to join my community,” Sajuti said.

Neither he nor Blumenthal elaborated on the crime, though Blumenthal said Hartford police provided federal officials with the evidence.

“The triumph today is really a lesson from Sujitno and his family,” said Blumenthal, a Democrat. “Never give up. Never back down. Never give up, because the fight is worth it.”

Sajuti came to the United States in 1981 on a Fulbright Scholarship, earning advanced degrees from Columbia University and the University of Connecticut. The West Hartford resident overstayed his student visa and remained in the United States.

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He has said he has registered with immigration officials since 2001.

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