Congress members Frank Pallone and Bonnie Watson Coleman have formally asked U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to release from ICE custody two fathers arrested as they dropped their children off for school late last month, and a third man held since last year. The request, made in a letter to the ICE office in Newark, asks that the men be freed while their immigration cases are pending. The letter comes after U.S. District Judge Esther Salas ordered a temporary restraining order halting the deportations of Roby Sanger and Gunawam Liem while she reviews their request for a second chance at asylum in the United States, following a suit filed by the ACLU-NJ, part of ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. Neither has ever missed a routine check-in with ICE. The letter also calls for the release of Parlin Sinaga, a Woodbridge father of three, detained since last October.
“They have raised their families here for decades, becoming important, law-abiding members of their communities who pose no flight risk before or after the conclusion of their court hearings. Releasing Mr. Liem, Mr. Sanger and Mr. Sinaga would allow them to be with their families and friends during this difficult process. It would also allow ICE the opportunity to better appropriate its resources in detaining individuals that pose a real threat to our communities.” Read Pallone and Watson Coleman’s full letter.
Roby Sanger and Gunawam Liem were both arrested by ICE in late January after dropping their children off for school. New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal has said the timing of those arrests “creates a chilling environment for parents who were simply ensuring that their children arrived to school safely.” In a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, Grewal called attention to the nature of those arrests because ICE policy is supposed to consider schools “sensitive locations.” Governor Phil Murphy made a campaign promise to protect unauthorized immigrants in New Jersey, and has stood with undocumented Indonesian nationals at Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale’s sanctuary church, Reformed Church of Highland Park
Gunawan Liem of Piscataway, father of two young children, says he originally came here legally on a B1-B2 visa in 1999, “seeking refuge from the mistreatment and discrimination that we faced in Indonesia as practicing Christians”. Roby Sanger has lived and worked in Metchen for about 20 years. He was pulled over and arrested shortly after letting his children out of the car for school, and taken to Essex County Jail. (Insider NJ has the story of Roby’s abrupt arrest) . A week ago Friday, Metuchen’s mayor joined a postcard & tweet storm action in support of his constituent Roby Sanger and Mr. Liem.
Last month Pallone blasted ICE for detaining Sanger and Liem and attempting to detain a third man, Harry Pangemanan, who received the 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award from the Highland Park Human Relations Commission Congressman for rebuilding homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. The Indonesian nationals are ethnic Chinese Christians, who fled from religious persecution in the 1990s.