Welcome to the American pogrom.
A day after Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested two New Jersey fathers dropping their kids off for school, with a third man narrowly escaping and seeking refuge in a nearby church sanctuary, two homes belonging to immigrants targeted by ICE have been ransacked, terrifying U.S.-born family members.
The victims—Indonesian immigrants and their U.S.–born children—and supporters from the community say the attacks could have been robberies, hate crimes, or even perpetrated by ICE agents themselves. ICE has denied involvement.
The targeted actions began on Thursday when agents arrested Gunawan Liem as he dropped his daughter off at a school bus stop. They arrested Roby Sanger while he dropped his kids off at school.
Harry Pangemanan, who recently received the Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award from the Borough of Highland Park, NJ, for his efforts to rebuild homes devastated by Superstorm Sandy, spotted agents outside his home and fled to the Reformed Church of Highland Park. There, he was received by Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, an immigrants’ rights advocate in the community. Kaper-Dale returned to Pangemanan’s home and filmed ICE agents attempting to enter it.
As Pangemanan’s two daughters—who are U.S. citizens—returned home later, they discovered the front door open, a crushed door frame, and the interior of their home trashed, Asbury Park Press’ Steph Solis reported. The incident occurred between Friday and Saturday morning.
A second home also was ransacked. That home belongs to Arthur Jemmy and Silfia Tobing, an Indonesian Christian couple that also sought sanctuary last October, according to Solis.
“Whomever did this one, didn’t just do the damage to me, but I just want to make it known that they did damage to Americans’ lives. My children’s,” Pangemanan said. “[These are] 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.’”
In a statement to Solis, ICE Press Secretary Jennifer Elzea said that, “If true, these reports are unfortunate; however, to suggest that ICE law enforcement officers were involved in such an incident is patently false. ICE law enforcement officers carry out their sworn duties daily with the utmost professionalism, in accordance with their training. To suggest that they would cause intentional harm to property is irresponsible and spreads undue fear in the community which this individual claims to support.”
Along with Pangemanan, Jemmy, and Tobing, another man, Yohanes Yasik, sought sanctuary after ICE agents “tried to separate him from his 3-year-old daughter,” the Press noted.
Indonesian Christian immigrants arrived in New Jersey after fleeing religious persecution back home. While they qualified for asylum, a 1996 law put a one–year time limit on applications that no one knew about. Pangemanan had been detained before, in 2009, but was released under a “stay of removal” agreement with ICE, Solis reported.
NJ Gov. Phil Murphy visited Pangemanan on Thursday and pledged his support. “This is extraordinary stuff we’re talking about. These are wonderful people, and it’s almost indescribable,” he said.
NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kristjen Nielsen calling for a federal review of this week’s arrests. Grewal noted that ICE policy prohibits immigration enforcement actions at sensitive locations, which include schools.
Meanwhile, concerned community members planned a vigil for Sunday afternoon and set up a website to collect funds to support those in the sanctuary.