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Pallone Blasts ICE for Targeting Highland Park Refugees

January 26, 2018
Press Release

New Brunswick, NJ –Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) blasted the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) for detaining two Indonesian men this morning and attempting to detain a third.  The Indonesian nationals are ethnic Chinese Christians, who fled from religious persecution in the 1990s.

Several days ago one of the men ICE attempted to detain, Harry Pangemanan, received the 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Award from the Highland Park Human Relations Commission. The award was mentioned in local news outlets.

“The Trump administration has now gone to new lows in its extreme, cruel and inhumane immigration policy. Now it is actually targeting members of our community who are being recognized for their service and commitment to human rights. I cannot think of an action that better exemplifies the warped values of the Trump administration.

“The Indonesians that have been targeted have cooperated with federal officials during their time in the United States and every year, they checked in with ICE and had their stayed renewed. They are valuable members of their community and there is absolutely no reason for ICE to prioritize their detainment.

“Rather than destroying the lives of these refugees the Trump Administration should look to the example of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, which has shown extraordinary compassion to these families in their time of need.

“I’m thankful that Governor Murphy came to Highland Park today to show his support and I know he will continue to be an advocate for Harry, Gunawan and Roby.”

Congressman Pallone today traveled to the Reform Church of Highland Park today to vow his support for the refugees.

Last May, Congressman Pallone contacted ICE on behalf of Saul Timisela, Arino Massie, Rovani Wangko and Oldy Manolo, who were detained by ICE and, shortly thereafter, deported to Indonesia.  The men were eventually returned to a county that has a record of persecuting religious minorities for practicing their beliefs.

Also in May, Pallone and Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) reintroduced legislation that would allow certain Indonesian refugees to reopen asylum claims if they were previously rejected for missing the one-year filing deadline. Indonesian Christians who fled their native country to avoid religious persecution are now facing deportation after years of living, working, and paying taxes in the United States. The Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act would provide a legal avenue for these individuals to reapply for asylum in the U.S.

Congressman Pallone today wrote ICE on behalf of the three refugees. The text can be found below. 


January 25, 2018

John Tsoukaris
Field Office Director
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement
970 Broad Street, Room 1300
Newark, NJ 07102

Dear Director Tsoukaris:

I am writing to you on behalf of Harry Pangemanan, a Christian Indonesian national, who appears to be targeted for detainment by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), as well Gunawan Liem of Piscataway and Roby Sanger of Metuchen who were arrested this morning.

Harry Pangemanan, currently the Minister of Facilities and Disaster Relief for Churches Accomplishing Long-Term Recovery (CALTR), was recently honored by the Highland Park Human Relations Commission.  He was awarded the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award in recognition of his work during Hurricane Sandy, which included organizing thousands of volunteers and repairing over 200 homes.

It is deeply concerning that shortly after Mr. Pangemanan was publicly honored for his significant work, ICE would target Mr. Pangemanan and attempt to detain him. Therefore, I request from your office an explanation as to why he is being targeted by ICE for detainment. Further, I believe the situation merits a larger discussion as to how we can better address the overarching issues surrounding the detainment of Christian Indonesian nationals in my district.

By way of background, my office has been working with the Reformed Church of Highland Park, for approximately nine (9) years, in order to provide some relief to Christian Indonesians that came to the United States in the late 1990’s, and overstayed their nonimmigrant visitor’s visas.  As you are aware, in 2013, after the deportation of many Christian Indonesians and the sanctuary of others, some individuals including Mr. Pangemanan were issued Stays of Removal. Currently, Mr. Pangemanan is, once again, seeking sanctuary from detainment and deportation.

On May 18, 2017, I contacted you on behalf of Saul Timisela, Arino Massie, Rovani Wangko and Oldy Manolo, who were detained by ICE and, shortly thereafter, deported to Indonesia.  These men, amongst others, were returned to a county that has a record of persecuting religious minorities for practicing their beliefs.

I understand that your agency is tasked with carrying out the priorities of the current Administration, however, I urge you to continue to exercise prosecutorial discretion in dealing with Christian Indonesians.  I look forward to your review of this matter and prompt reply.



Member of Congress