Two Immigrants Detained in New Jersey While Taking Children to School; Third Seeks Sanctuary in Church

In New Jersey, immigrant rights advocates and faith leaders are speaking out against the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency for detaining multiple parents while they were taking their children to school. On Thursday, Roby Sanger was detained by ICE after dropping his two daughters off at school, while Gunawan Liem was detained after he dropped his daughter off at the school bus stop. Both men are Indonesian. A third man, also from Indonesia, Harry Pangemanan, has taken sanctuary at the Reformed Church of Highland Park in New Jersey, after he says he saw undercover ICE agents waiting outside his home as he was preparing to drive his daughter to school. All three are parents of US-born children. For more, we speak with Seth Kaper-Dale, pastor of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, where Harry Pangemanan has sought sanctuary. And we speak with Gunawan Liem’s pastor, Steven Rantung, pastor of the First Indonesian Seventh-Day Adventist Church in South Plainfield, New Jersey.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. In New Jersey, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents have detained two fathers as they were dropping their children off at school. On Thursday, Roby Sanger was detained by ICE after dropping his two daughters off at school, while Gunawan Liem was detained after he dropped his daughter off at the school bus stop. Both men are Indonesian. A third man, also from Indonesia, Harry Pangemanan, has taken sanctuary at the Reformed Church of Highland Park in New Jersey, after he says he saw undercover ICE agents waiting outside his home as he was preparing to drive his daughter to school. Just a week ago, the borough of Highland Park honored Harry for his role in helping rebuild the Jersey Shore after Superstorm Sandy.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: New Jersey’s new governor, Phil Murphy, a Democrat, criticized the actions of ICE. After meeting with Harry in sanctuary, Murphy said, quote, “This is extraordinary stuff we’re talking about. These are wonderful people, and it’s almost indescribable.”

This comes as a new report, titled “Sanctuary in the Age of Trump,” says, quote, “more people are taking Sanctuary in congregations than at any time since the 1980’s.”

We’re joined now by two guests. Reverend Seth Kaper-Dale is pastor of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, where Harry Pangemanan has sought sanctuary. Kaper-Dale was the Green Party candidate for governor of New Jersey in 2017. Also with us is Steven — Pastor Steven of the First Indonesian Seventh-Adventist Church in South Plainfield, New Jersey.

I’d like to ask you — you were the Green Party candidate, and Phil Murphy comes to your church to see an example of someone being persecuted by ICE?

PASTOR SETH KAPER-DALE: Yes. I was very excited that the governor showed up on Thursday. And more than me being excited, for the families who have sought sanctuary in my church. And Harry makes three — we’ve had two other people — Arthur Jemmy, 110 days ago; Yohanes Tasik, about two-and-a-half weeks ago; now, Harry. For them to see the support of the governor just really told them that in this age of Trump, at least at the state level, there is serious support for standing up for keeping families together and communities together.

AMY GOODMAN: So, explain what this means. Some people are not — you know, I had gone over to CNN to do — for Reliable Sources on Sunday. And talking to some of the hosts, they’re not really aware of the sanctuary movement that’s going on. So, how did Harry end up in your church? These two other men, they’re taking their kids to school, and they’re taken by ICE.

PASTOR SETH KAPER-DALE: Right. So, Harry ended up in our church, because at 7:55 a.m. he called me. I live five blocks away. “Pastor, there’s unidentified vehicles outside my house.” He said he was backing out of his driveway, saw them, ran back inside, locked the doors. I drove to his house. I got out of the car, approached a Ford Explorer. And they drove off. I followed them around town. They came back. I drove up to their window. They drove off again. At that point, I said, “Harry, get in my car. We’re going to the church.” I then drove back to Harry’s house, where there were ICEagents pounding on the doors, two vehicles. And I made a video of it.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to that, Reverend Kaper-Dale. You streamed on Facebook Live Thursday morning —

PASTOR SETH KAPER-DALE: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: — as ICE officials knocked on Harry Pangemanan’s door. This is after you took him into the church and offered him sanctuary.

PASTOR SETH KAPER-DALE: Right, right. I don’t think the officers knew he was already in there. They were trying to get him still.

PASTOR SETH KAPER-DALE: This is ICE knocking on the doors of Harry and Yana Pangemanan’s house. And we know that right now they’re on stays of removal that are legit. And I’m just — I’m just filming what happens in Highland Park, New Jersey, when ICE decides that they want to take the guy that just won the MLK Award for repairing 209 houses during Hurricane Sandy, and assault and threaten him.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you also talk about the fact these are all Indonesian nationals and how some of them originally came into the country —

PASTOR SETH KAPER-DALE: Sure.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — and what their stories are?

PASTOR SETH KAPER-DALE: In the late 1990s, as the Suharto regime collapsed, there was a period of rioting and a tremendous bloodbath, especially against ethnic Chinese. And lots of ethic Chinese Christians ended up in New Jersey and in California and in a couple other states. They all got here on tourist visas. They overstayed those tourist visas. They were able to get jobs in factories. It was the late ’90s. Things were very different. 9/11 came. The NSEERS program, our first program of targeting Muslim countries, unfolded. Males age 15 to 65 from the 24 largest Muslim countries in the world had to go register. And here you have ethnic Chinese Christians who have just left a primarily Muslim country. Not wanting to get caught up in the American dragnet against Muslims, they all went and self-reported. And since then, they’ve been low-hanging fruit for immigration.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Harry Pangemanan in his own words, speaking after his home was vandalized while he took refuge in your church.

PASTOR SETH KAPER-DALE: Yeah, within 24 hours.

HARRY PANGEMANAN: Didn’t just do the damage to me. But I just want to make note that they do, they did damage to Americans’ life — my children’s. They started destroying my children’s life. This is American kids, Americans that have dreams, like everybody else. Now, my oldest daughter said to me last night, ‘I don’t have any more safe space for myself.’ So, whomever did this one, you did pretty good job of destroying American life.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Harry Pangemanan talking. Pastor Steven, I’d like to ask you about Gunawan Liem, his story. And he’s a member of your church?

PASTOR STEVEN RANTUNG: Yes, he is a member of my church. He’s one of the deacons of the church, who serve in our church services. Also, when we need to serve the community, he’s one of the members that we usually send.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what was some of his story, in terms of him coming here?

PASTOR STEVEN RANTUNG: He fled Indonesia in 1999, after Suharto regime collapsed in Indonesia. And because of he’s Chinese, ethnic Chinese, and also as a Christian, he fled. You know, he has some stories that he told me about what happened to his family back in Indonesia. So that’s why he ran away from Indonesia and arrived with tourist visa in the U.S. And after the — you know, this thing, he tried to make his case for the immigration, but it was denied. He appealed, and it denied again. And he went for check-in for the last couple of years. And he’s supposed to check in again this coming February or March, I believe. And before the time of that check-in, they took them.

AMY GOODMAN: And this is exactly what the judge in the case of Ravi Ragbir raised.

PASTOR STEVEN RANTUNG: Yes, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: When people are doing their check-ins, why is ICE going to their homes and picking them up and terrorizing not only them, but the whole community? So what has happened right now to the two men who were taken, to Roby Sanger as well as him?

PASTOR STEVEN RANTUNG: They are in Essex County detention right now.

AMY GOODMAN: Are they going to be deported to Indonesia?

PASTOR STEVEN RANTUNG: We don’t know yet. We are trying to do our best with the lawyers, with the help of ACLU, if there’s something that can be done to — you know, for them to stay.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale, what are you calling for?

PASTOR SETH KAPER-DALE: Well, I’m calling for a lot of things. First of all, these folks have been on orders of supervision now since 2009, when ICE worked with us to say that these are not the kinds of people who should be deported. They’re people who missed on the technicality of the one-year time bar on filing for asylum. And ICE, at that time, invited me to bring Indonesians forward to be able to do these reports. So they’ve backed off on the promises they’ve made.

And I really want Donald Trump to recognize that he’s the hate crime president, who is now leading not only to policies that look like hate crimes, but leading other folks to do vigilante acts. I mean, the fact that two people who moved into sanctuary had their homes really broken into and robberies taken place, it feels like a pogrom to me.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you both for being with us, Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale and Pastor Steveen. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Thanks so much for joining us.