February 19, 2019 | 28° F

Christian immigrants leave sanctuary in Highland Park church

Photo by Flickr |

U.S. District Judge Esther Salas’s decision to temporarily halt the deportation of three men that found refuge in a Highland Park church will benefit other Christian Indonesian families in New Jersey. They can now file motions to reopen other cases.

Three undocumented immigrants, who were seeking sanctuary within a church in Highland Park, walked out its front doors yesterday.

NJ Advance Media reported that Arthur Jemmy had been seeking shelter in the Reformed Church of Highland Park since Oct. 9, 2017, along with Harry Pangemanan and Yohanes Tasik since late and early January, respectively. All three men are undocumented Christian Indonesian immigrants. 

They were able to return home after a federal judge temporarily halted their deportation, according to the article.

U.S. District Judge Esther Salas issued a temporary restraining order halting their deportation after the ACLU went to court, “arguing that the summary deportation of the men violated their due process and deprived them of the opportunity to argue their case for asylum,” according to NJ Advance Media. 

Pangemanan was not home when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) originally showed up at his doorstep. He subsequently went to the Reformed Church of Highland Park, where Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale “has long been championing the cause of the Indonesian Christian community,” NJ Advance Media reported.

Two others, Gunawan Liem of Franklin Park and Roby Sanger of Metuchen, were arrested a week prior to Salas’s decision without warning by ICE, according to NJ Advance Media.

“It is a relief,” said Jemmy, who arrived in the U.S. on a tourist visa in 2000 while fleeing religious persecution. “It’s like all the heavy problems are lifted off my shoulders.”

Jemmy overstayed his visa and self-reported his stay to ICE after 9/11. He received a stay of removal — a temporary postponement that prevents the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from carrying out an order of removal, NJ Advance Media reported. His application for asylum, for those who are already in the United States but cannot return home, was denied multiple times.

Salas’s ruling will benefit other Indonesian families in New Jersey, Kaper-Dale said to NJ Advance Media. Members of the Christian Indonesian community will be able to “file motions to reopen for each case.”

The men cannot be deported for the next five weeks until the judge delivers another ruling, but ICE can still detain them, according to NJ Advance Media. 

“What we need right now is a tremendous outpouring of support from law firms in New Jersey,” Kaper-Dale said. “Right now we want to have lawyers lined up so those motions are ready to go.”

Alexandra DeMatos

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