Pastor Torben Sondergaard has been detained at the Baker County Detention Facility in Jacksonville, Florida for 412 days.
Torben has not been charged with any crimes and despite attempts from his family and attorneys to get answers, the reason US authorities decided to detain him remains unclear.
He has been confined there after he attended an interview that was requested by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement on June 30, 2022.
He was handcuffed during that interview, but was not told the reason he was being detained.
In fact, there is no basis for him to be detained at all. A request for his release should be granted based on the fact that he meets all parameters for release, namely, (i) he is not a flight risk; (ii) he is not a danger to the community, himself, and/or any other person; (iii) he has no criminal record of any kind in Florida or anywhere in the world; (iv) he has family and friends who can meet him at the Baker facility, pick him up, provide for housing and all expenses, and (v) he has a very strong case for asylum based on religious persecution and political opinion, has relief from removal immediately available to him, and it is entirely in his interests to appear at all subsequent asylum proceedings so that he and his family can lawfully remain in the USA.
Torben is also eligible for relief under a previously filed and currently pending asylum application. US Immigration and Customs Enforcement have the authority to either release Torben under recognizance or a bond amount set by them. To date, the Deportation Officer assigned has denied those request. Those requests have been sent with a detailed explanations and evidence in support of the Torben’s eligibility for favorable discretion. The denial was based solely on the opinion of a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Deportation Officer that Torben would not be successful in his application for asylum before the Immigration Court.
Torben is a citizen and native of Denmark, a majority Lutheran country.He was a member of the Lutheran faith. However, in 1995 he developed a more personal faith in Christ and no longer identified as a member of the Lutheran faith but simply as a member of the Christian faith, a follower of Jesus Christ, and an Evangelical Christian. As has been covered in great detail in Torben’s Asylum filings, his ministry has been targeted, harassed, and subjected to numerous unfounded investigations. All of the multiple investigations ended with no findings of fault against Torben or his ministry. The investigations were nothing more than harassment, which continues to this day.
Despite having a far-reaching ministry stretching into Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and The Americas, Torben has been prohibited by the Danish government from practicing his faith and speaking out regarding matters of politics and religion. He has been repressed, persecuted, and discriminated against by the government of Denmark for his political beliefs and religious convictions. As a result, he is not able to minister as he did previously, which includes praying for the sick and casting out demons. As stated in his Asylum petition, the government of Denmark passed legislation targeting him and his ministry. The persecution by the Danish authorities caused Torben to flee to the USA in 2019.
Torben and his family have resided in the United States since 2019. He timely applied for political asylum within three months of his arrival in the USA as required by law, and his asylum application is currently pending. It is a very strong application, with extraordinary evidence, witnesses, detailed records, and a strong showing of actual repression and persecution as a religious minority and political activist. As such, Torben is highly incentivized to follow through with his political asylum application as that is a clear path of immediately available relief to him from deportation and path forward for him to be able to stay lawfully and permanently in the USA, where he would be able to practice his religion, work for his ministry and express his political opinion. Torben has a wife and family; they are also included in his Asylum application.
He is a classic case of a political and religious asylee and, as such, should be released from custody based on a strong case of underlying relief, humanitarian reasons, and meeting all other factors for release.
Torben has resided continuously in the United States for more than three years in a peaceful manner. As discussed above, Torben fled Denmark and has resided in the USA since 2019. He has a significant ministry and a steady following, a place of residence, hundreds of friends who are all able and willing to provide for his transport from the Baker facility, drive him to stay at their home awaiting adjudication of his asylum application, and provide for all expenses.
Torben is a person of excellent moral character who has not committed any crimes and has no criminal record. There is no history of involvement with violence, narcotics, or any serious criminal matter. Thus, from the record, we can unequivocally state Torben has never been arrested anywhere in the world. Torben has been a victim of persistent and vicious persecution in Denmark for his religious beliefs and should not be penalized by being held in custody.
Torben is not a flight risk. On the contrary, Torben came to the USA seeking asylum as a refuge from the terrible persecution and threats of violence he was experiencing in his home country of Denmark. These threats continue to this day. As such, he has nowhere to flee nor any desire to flee. Therefore, his best and only chance to secure any type of status for himself and his family is to stay in the USA, participate in his asylum proceedings, show up for all future hearings and appointments (as he has carefully and intentionally done to date), in order to secure a grant of his asylum.
In the United States, Torben has thousands of followers on YouTube and Facebook. Thus, it is clear that Torben is a Public Figure. He has authored seven books and produced three movies. His ministry reaches people all over the world. While he has resided in the United States, Torben and his ministry have visited over 40 States preaching the Word of God. In addition, he has held tent rallies and teaching seminars in multiple cities within each state. This religious freedom is not available to him in his home country Denmark.
Further, Torben conducts Bible teaching from the United States via the internet to all parts of the globe. As a Public Figure, Torben cannot simply disappear. To flee would go against his life’s work and his faith. By the foolish act of fleeing, he would destroy the very thing he preaches, faith in God. He is obligated by his deeply rooted ties to his Christian community, family, and ministry to stay in the United States once released from ICE custody and follow every rule and instruction associated with his release.
Torben is not a danger to the community, himself, or any other person; he is a man of deep faith. He simply wants to live peacefully, go through with his asylum application, and continue his work in his ministry. Torben is a man who has been through a great deal of hardship, pain, and discrimination; he has been ostracized and shunned; persecuted by his government; his religion has been outlawed, and the public state media have vilified him in his home country.
Our political asylum system in the USA was intended and designed to grant relief to people precisely like Torben.
On August 16, 2023 Torben was deported to Denmark. He has spend 412 days in prison. His asylum case is still running in a US Federal Court.