July 21, 2019 | 92° F

ICE raid targets Indonesian immigrants in Highland Park

Photo by Facebook |

Members from the Reformed Church of Highland Park rally in solidarity against immigration policies that separate children from their families.

Three undocumented Christian Indonesians are seeking sanctuary in the Reformed Church of Highland Park after President Donald J. Trump’s crackdown on the deportation of illegal immigrants. 

One of these men has not stepped outside the church walls in four months, according to NJ Advance Media

Rev. Seth-Kaper Dale welcomed the men into his church after they left Indonesia, claiming religious persecution in their country. 

Harry Pangemanan was detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and almost deported in 2009, when the Reformed Church of America helped him get an extended stay. Since then, the 47-year-old became a construction worker and has helped rebuild more than 209 homes that were affected by Hurricane Sandy. He recently won the 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award from the Highland Park Human Relations Commission for his community service and leadership. 

On Thursday, ICE attempted to detain him while he was taking his daughter to school. He called his pastor, who opened the church doors for him. He now sleeps in a Sunday school classroom on a mattress.

Agents refrain from arresting undocumented immigrants in “sensitive” places like churches, schools and hospitals, which have been a safe haven for hundreds of illegal residents in the past years, according to ICE policy. 

On Friday, federal U.S. district Judge Esther Salas issued an order freezing the deportations of another two Christian Indonesians who were arrested in Newark while dropping their daughters off at school. She argued that their summary deportation procedure infringed on due process. 

"These community members, our neighbors, are entitled to argue their case with the protections of due process, especially when the stakes are life-and-death," said Amol Sinha, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, in an NJ Advance Media article. 

In the past years, Christian Indonesians have faced discrimination and persecution by radical Islamic groups in the country. Forty-one percent of religious persecution in Indonesia is violent, according to Open Doors. 

Arthur Jemmy is a 17-year-old refugee in the church who has not stepped outside since October 2017. He recounted a time when he attended a church service with his family in Indonesia. A radical group then entered and decapitated the priest before burning down the entire church, according to the article. 

He said that he trusted Trump who said that he would only target undocumented residents with criminal records. 

“But he’s broken his promise," Jemmy said. "I know I overstayed, but I keep working. This country comes from taxes you pay — I pay taxes, I learned English ... I do nothing criminal,” he said. 

Erica D'Costa

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