Gov. Phil Murphy rushed to a church Thursday that has provided sanctuary for immigrants, hours after two Indonesians were detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in simultaneous arrests at their homes.
Gunawan Liem, of Piscataway, and Roby Sanger, of Metuchen, were arrested at their homes Thursday morning, the Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, told APP.com.
ICE officers arrived at the men’s homes at the same time so they could not warn each other, according to the report.
Murphy went to the church, which has been housing immigrants for several years, on Thursday afternoon to hear the concerns from some of those immigrants including one who avoided detention.
“Everybody’s terrified. We can’t believe ICE would make the choice to destroy communities in that way,” Kaper-Dale said. “We’re here to highlight the injustice of the Donald Trump administration which is the most horrific administration anyone could imagine.”
Kaper-Dale, who ran for governor as an independent last year, has said he is trying to save all at-risk Indonesian refugees who fled their country to escape religious persecution more than a decade ago.
The church has three people in sanctuary. One has been there 100 days, another for 10 days and one arrived Thursday morning after ICE officials tried to arrest the man at his home.
Kaper-Dale brought Harry Pangemanan back to the church – which is four blocks from Pangemanan’s home after the Indonesian immigrant didn’t answer knocks on his door from ICE officers. Kaper-Dale said the officers were in a Ford Explorer with tinted windows.
Pangemanan’s daughter, a student at Highland Park High School, later called the reverend and learned her father was safe.
All three men had one-year stays of removal – one was supposed to check in with immigration officials on Tuesday, one Feb. 14 and one in March.
“They had no reason to believe ICE would perform a pre-emptive attack,” he said.
Both men taken from their homes Thursday are being detained at the Essex County jail, according to Kaper-Dale.
Last year, several other Indonesian Christians who were detained by ICE were deported, according to Kaper-Dale.
Saul Timisela and Rovani Wangko were sent back to Indonesia in June after their requests to stay in the country were denied, he said.
In May, Arino Massie was deported as well, leaving behind his wife and a 13-year-old U.S. citizen son who was in school when his father boarded a plane. A fourth man was also taken into custody.
All four had applied for asylum more than 10 years ago but missed the deadline for eligibility and were ordered deported. The group worked out an agreement with ICE to stay in the country so long as long as they periodically checked in. But when the four reported in May, they were detained, according to Kaper-Dale.
ICE officials today did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the latest detentions.
Meanwhile, New Jersey will join more than a dozen other states in a lawsuit that challenges President Donald Trump over his decision to end a program that allowed undocumented people brought to the U.S. as children to avoid deportation.
The move was expected after Murphy, a Democrat, promised during his campaign to join the fight against Trump, a Republican, after he ended the Obama administration era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Murphy made the announcement in Trenton on Wednesday along with the state’s attorney general, Gurbir Grewal, who didn’t give an exact date when the state would join the lawsuit. Rather, his office will wait for “the most opportune time to file the papers.”
Ted Sherman contributed this report.
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