Two New Jersey fathers were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents on Thursday, while a third evaded detention and fled to a nearby church for sanctuary.
Gunawan Liem was detained by ICE agents as he dropped his daughter off at a school bus stop. Roby Sanger was picked up while dropping his children off at school. Harry Pangemanan noticed ICE agents waiting outside his home and escaped to the Reformed Church of Highland Park, NJ, where he is being sheltered along with other immigrants. All three men are Indonesian.
The Reformed Church’s Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, an immigration rights activist, helped Pangemanan elude capture. Kaper-Dale—who ran for New Jersey governor on the Green Party ticket in 2017—later returned to Pangemanan’s home and filmed ICE agents attempting entry.
“This is what happens when ICE starts to destroy our community,” Kaper-Dale explained, while ICE agents knocked on Pangemanan’s door.
Pangemanan, who just last week was honored by Highland Park for his work rebuilding the Jersey Shore in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, expressed his thanks to those who’d gathered to support him on Thursday, telling them that “Nothing more has shown me that I belong here in this community.”
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy visited Pangemanan on Thursday morning, pledging to help the father of two along with other immigrants swept up in the ICE raid.
“I’m going to go back, go to Trenton right now and meet with my team and try to think through,” Murphy said. “This is extraordinary stuff we’re talking about. These are wonderful people, and it’s almost indescribable.”
Speaking with Pix11, Pangemanan’s wife—who declined to give her name—insisted her husband had no criminal history.
“My hope is just let me raise my kids,” she said. “Let them be whatever they dream and when they stand on their own feet I can voluntarily go back to my country.”
ICE officials have confirmed Liem and Sanger’s arrest, telling NJ.com:
During a targeted enforcement operation today, ICE arrested two foreign nationals in Franklin Park and Metuchen. These individuals have an order of removal from the United States issued by an immigration judge and upheld by the Board of Immigration Appeals.
Pangemanan was reportedly forced to take shelter in the Reformed Church once already during the Obama administration, along with other Indonesians afraid of looming ICE sweeps and deportations. He was later granted a temporary “stay of removal” which allowed him to leave the church without fear of arrest.
According to PIX11, Liem and Sanger are being held in a nearby county jail.