Mr. Torben Sondergaard is a citizen and national of Denmark who has faced unprecedented persecution both in his home country and in the U.S. for practicing his Christian faith. He is the founder and lead pastor of a Christian evangelical ministry called, The Last Reformation. Torben and his church community believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and model their ministry after the early church in the book of Acts where the followers of Jesus receive the Holy Spirit, speak in tongues, heal the sick, and engage in the practice of casting out of demons, or what the catholic church refers to as “exorcism”.
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In January 2019, a TV station owned by the government of Denmark aired a three part “documentary” which portrayed Torben and his ministry in an extremely dishonest and derogatory light by heavily manipulating footage, distorting facts and even using sound effects like human screaming to make the ministry appear sinister. The fake documentary showed footage of Torben and his ministry team casting out demons during baptism meetings, but manipulated and edited video footage to make it seem as if Sondergaard had been negligent in doing this in front of scared and crying children. (See investigative report exposing the truth behind these video clips of children)
Following the airing of the first part of the documentary, a media blitz and subsequent lobby effort aimed at cancelling Torben was launched and many anti-Christian groups called for Torben’s arrest for child abuse and quackery. Members of the Danish government criticized him on the floor of parliament and argued for updated laws to address the notion of what they referred to as “mental violence” or “psychological abuse” in the documentary. The politicians claimed that “mental violence” is the same as “physical violence.”
Members of the Danish Parliament are on record saying Torben’s ministry is a “radical religious community” because they practice “demon exorcism”.
In a January 9, 2019 speech in support of bill L 139, before the Committee on Legal Affairs, a Danish politician named Mads Fuglede, directly referenced the slanderous documentary, stating, “Many of you may have watched the documentary ‘God’s Best Children’ and seen how a preacher [Sondergaard] commits demon exorcisms in front of trembling and crying children, and we in the Left [referring to leftwing political party] agree with the Children’s Union that this kind of behavior can be described as psychological abuse that can leave children with serious trauma.”
Torben Forced to Flee Denmark
Torben’s signed a sworn affidavit and statement of facts of what he and his family experienced in Denmark leading up to their decision to flee Denmark. That document can be viewed at this link.
Arrival & Entry into the United States in January of 2019
Torben lawfully traveled to the United States with his family and was admitted through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (“ESTA”) program on January 26, 2019, while the effort to criminalize Sondergaard’s ministry activities was still being debated in the Danish government.
Every foreign visitor to the U.S. must obtain some form of permission to enter. Citizens from countries such as Denmark are considered a low risk of staying in the U.S. illegally, so they are not required to obtain a visa. The need for a visa is waived. Hence the name “visa waiver program” or VWP. So, when a Danish national is planning to travel to the U.S. he or she simply visits a U.S. immigration website, fills out a Digital information card, and is granted a period of 90 days authorized stay for sightseeing or limited business activities.
However, not all Danish citizens can use the ESTA Visa Waiver Program. For example, those who have committed serious violations or have criminal records overseas are ineligible to participate in the visa waiver program.
Entering through the visa waiver program also limits the traveler’s options compared to other forms of immigration in the United States. VWP visitors may not file an application to change status to an immigrant or another nonimmigrant classification or extend their stay beyond the 90-day timeframe, unless they make an asylum application, such as in the case of Torben.
Application for Asylum
Torben exercised prudent diligence by discussing what had occurred in Denmark with a U.S. based immigration attorney. After learning the details of what Sondergaard had dealt with back home, the attorney advised that he apply for asylum. Subsequently, Torben lawfully filed an application for asylum protection with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), provided documentary evidence and particulars of his well-founded fear of religious persecution. The USCIS provided an official notice of receipt of his application stamped, April 19, 2019.
Arrest & 412 Day Detention
On June 30, 2022, Immigration Customs & Enforcement (“ICE”) detained Torben and served him with a Visa Waiver Program Final Administrative Order of Removal. There is reason to believe, through a confidential and reliable source, that Torben’s ESTA was secretly cancelled on March 13, 2019. He was not informed even though immigration authorities had his phone number and email.
The confidential source also indicated that ICE officials had received an anonymous report submitted through a government website claiming that Torben was the leader of a cult and was violating his ESTA by making money during previous visits to the U.S. under a visa waiver program. These false allegations were never formally brought against Torben, but appear to be part of why ICE would later take such an aggressive stance behind the scenes.
U.S. Federal law establishes consequences for nonimmigrants who overstay their authorized periods of admission. A person becomes an “overstay” when he or she remains in the United States beyond his or her authorized period of time. In this case, the 90 days allowed with a VWP entry.
Typically, an asylum applicant would be allowed to pursue their asylum claim outside of immigration detention, as is the case with tens of thousands of asylum seekers living in the U.S. today. However, as you will read below, information in the possession of Torben’s legal team indicates that ICE eventually categorized him as “a threat to national security” while at the same time intentionally avoided making any reference to “national security” on legal documents. It appears they were using this narrative privately to justify their handling of the case and ultimate goal of expelling Torben from the U.S.
In fact, the manner in which ICE’s investigation and arrest of Torben’s was conducted was far from orthodox. Certain ICE agents stewarded uncorroborated information and untruths about Torben, which they knew, or had reason to know, would not only provide administrative clearance to detain him but also would perpetuate Torben’s continued ICE detention, an even possible trigger a criminal investigation of Torben. (*More on this below)
Origins of “Gun Smuggling” Allegation
In the Spring of 2022, an American woman in her late 30’s, whose parents were part of Torben’s ministry, called the F.B.I. and falsely reported that her parents were transporting weapons across state lines for Torben. (This call was made roughly five months before Torben’s arrest.)
That false “tip” was then sent to an F.B.I. Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) for review, which would have been normal protocol since the allegation dealt with a foreign national and weapons trafficking. The JTTF did a preliminary review of the matter and determined that Sondergaard was not a person of interest and had not broken any laws. This was confirmed to Torben’s attorneys by a senior F.B.I. official and is further evidenced by the fact that neither Torben nor anyone in his community were ever questioned or visited by ANY law enforcement officer. He was not charged with any crimes, and he was not arrested by the F.B.I. However, there was an ICE deportation officer that was part of the JTTF who, regardless of the facts, decided he wanted Torben out of the country and schemed a plan to have Torben forcibly removed.
Several months after the F.B.I. JTTF had determined Torben was not of interest, the deportation officer took it up on his own to contact the woman who had made the original false report and proceeded to use his office to contrive a justification to arrest and “get rid of” Torben.
This deportation officer has avoided Torben’s attorneys and has even refused to answer a notice of subpoena, so the exact motivation for what he did remains unconfirmed.
Upon information and witness testimony, this deportation officer believed lies and concluded that Torben was a danger to society who he wanted to protect people from. He conducted his own rogue investigation outside of the JTTF under false pretenses, leading people to believe Torben was actually under investigation by an F.B.I. Joint Terrorism Task Force. When in fact, the investigation was not an JTTF investigation, but rather what had become an ICE investigation that he had initiated. The deportation officer even went as far as handing out his F.B.I. JTTF business card and used an F.B.I. JTTF email address in the course of his investigation into Torben. While this might not have been illegal, it was misleading, dishonest and sinister.
(A detailed complaint which points to possible criminal misconduct and corruption by this deportation officer was provided to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General by Torben’s attorneys. It is supposedly under review.) Witnesses claim the officer went as far as forming personal friendship bonds and sharing confidential law enforcement information with individuals who were primary sources of fabricated evidence about Torben. One witness claims the officer encouraged him to call federal law enforcement and falsely report Torben for Human Trafficking. The deportation officer’s supervisor at the JTTF, who was an actual F.B.I. agent, was unaware of the deportation officer’s activities with regard to his rogue investigation of Torben.
Documentary evidence establishes, and even this false tipster’s own parents have provided sworn testimony, that her claim that weapons were being transported across state lines was untrue. In fact, upon information and belief this woman knew her claims were not true, but chose to provide false information to the FBI with what appears to be the intention of incriminating Torben in a federal crime. (Sadly, the catalyst for this woman’s actions appears to be related to symptomatology of a personality disorder combined with wanting revenge for her parents kicking her out of their house. She self-identifies as a “satellite victim” of Torben because her parents sold their home and moved out of state to do full time ministry.)
But these facts were hidden by the deportation officer and only became known when Torben’s attorneys conducted their own review of the investigation. In order to appreciate just how damaging this woman’s false accusations were, consider this; When Torben was arrested on June 30, 2022, the deportation officer, who put the handcuffs on Torben, told him that he was being detained for “smuggling weapons from Mexico”. This led Torben and his family to believe he was being charged with a crime related to arms trafficking, when in fact, he was not. Torben had no reason to doubt what the officer was telling him, even though the allegation was false.
It is unclear where the “Mexico” component of the allegation came into the picture since the tipster’s false allegation only claimed her parents were moving weapons across U.S. state lines. She never mentioned Mexico.
Again, witness statements and documentary evidence support that the allegations reported to the F.B.I. were categorically false. Not only is the notion of smuggling weapons FROM Mexico to the U.S. instead of FROM the U.S. to Mexico abnormal, but even more abnormal is the fact that the deportation officer never bothered to speak with primary witnesses who would have easily confirmed the weapons smuggling allegation was not only false, but that the source of the false tip was likely trying to intentionally harm Torben.
As a result, the claim that Torben fell under public safety guidelines as a National Security Threat due to an investigation by the F.B.I., was the result of a fabrication and tainted his reputation with any law enforcement officer, agent, or U.S. government attorney, or elected official who reviewed his file. These untruths became permanently fixed on Torben’s alien file, which likely perpetuated his ICE detention, contributed to the immigration courts denial of his asylum claim, and continues to plague him to this day. Therefore, it reasonably follows that the false information about weapons smuggling by a woman seeking revenge and the actions of a rogue deportation officer caused irreparable harm to Torben and his family.
The Department of Homeland Security should conduct an internal investigation into this matter and correct all records so that DHS databases no longer misrepresent the facts of the case.