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ICE Renews Apparent Crackdown on Indonesian Christians in NJ

Federal agents arrest at least two men in morning, force another — a well-known community leader — to return to sanctuary at his church

Harry-Pangemanan
Credit: Karen Rouse/WNYC
Harry Pangemanan, an Indonesian Christian who overstayed his visa, in sanctuary at the Reformed Church in Highland Park on January 25, 2018.

Federal immigration agents renewed an apparent yearlong crackdown on Indonesian Christians in New Jersey on Thursday, arresting at least two men in the morning, and forcing another well-known community leader to return to sanctuary at his church.

Rev. Seth Kaper Dale of the Reformed Highland Church of Highland Park said the two men — from Piscataway and Metuchen — were arrested after dropping off their children at school.

He said the third man, a leader at his church named Harry Pangemanan, had called him after noticing at about 5:45 a.m. that an unmarked car with tinted windows was outside of his Highland Park home. Kaper-Dale said he drove there and took a live video of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers knocking on the door, and then getting in vehicles and driving away.

"As soon as he drove away the second time, I called Harry and said, "Quick, get in my car, we're going to the church."

Pangemanan joined fellow Indonesian Christians also seeking sanctuary at the church. He had been in sanctuary there for an 11-month stretch during the Obama administration. But until President Donald Trump took office, he and other Christians who had fled persecution in majority-Muslim Indonesia, were not a priority for deportation.

Just a week ago, Pangemanan won a Martin Luther King humanitarian award for his disaster-relief efforts after Sandy. The father of two U.S.-born children said he knew he was wanted for overstaying his visa 25 years ago. His friends have recently been deported for the same reason.

Governor Phil Murphy said he decided to make a last-minute visit to the church when he heard of the ICE arrests.

He was joined on the visit by Rep. Frank Pallone and the mayors of Metuchen and Highland Park. 

Immigration and Customs Enforcement did not respond to a request for comment. The agency's email response was still set to indicate it was unavailable due to the government shutdown, which ended on Monday.

WNYC's Karen Rouse and Mara Silvers contributed to this story.

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