You may recall that I was * cough * less-than-enthusiastic about Phil Murphy winning the recent gubernatorial primary in New Jersey. I was, and still remain, skeptical about an ex-Goldman Sachs man who bought the loyalty of local Democrats with large donations and poured $16 million of his own dollars into the primary race.
But, since winning the office last November, and replacing Chris Christie, Murphy has made some welcomed moves such as supporting a $15 minimum wage, the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, more funding for public schools, and help for those facing eviction or foreclosure, to name a few.
Also, he has claimed to be interested in making New Jersey a sanctuary state for undocumented immigrants.
Gov.-elect Phil Murphy promised during the campaign to protect all of the state’s 9 million residents — including immigrants without legal status.
His policy positions put him on a collision course with President Donald Trump, whose immigration agenda has been derided by critics as racist, xenophobic and unconstitutional.
A couple of days ago, Murphy put his shoes to the ground and signaled that he meant it.
Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday rushed to a church that has provided sanctuary for immigrants after two Indonesians were arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and a third sought refuge in the church.
Gunawan Liem, of Franklin Park, and Roby Sanger, of Metuchen, were detained as they dropped their kids off at school Thursday morning, said Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale of the Reformed Church of Highland Park.
At the church, which has been housing immigrants for years, the governor met with others who have taken up sanctuary there, including one who avoided detention by not answering his door.
The man to the left of Murphy in the picture below, Harry Pangemanan, came to the U.S. in 1993.
Harry Pangemanan was honored a week ago by the Borough of Highland Park for rebuilding hundreds of homes along the Jersey Shore destroyed by superstorm Sandy. On Thursday, the Indonesian national and father of two met the governor.
Can we all agree that someone who has been in the U.S. for twenty-five years should get a shot at legal status?? Not to mention that Harry has demonstrated full commitment to giving back and contributing to his community.
Highland Park resident Harry Pangemanan received the 2018 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Award from the Highland Park Human Relations Commission at a ceremony that took place January 15 at Highland Park High School. The annual event recognizes an individual who has shown exemplary leadership and service to the community.
Settling in Highland Park in 2000, Mr. Pangemanan helped form an Indonesian congregation at the Reformed Church of Highland Park (RCHP). He worked to assist hundreds of Indonesians register with the federal government. Detained in 2009 after facing his own immigration challenges, Mr. Pangemanan started a detention visitation program. He assisted in writing the Indonesian Refugee Family Protection Act, introduced by Congressman Pallone and Senator Lautenberg in 2012.
He was also active in collecting goods, preparing meals, and offering hospitality to victims of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Harry has two children.
Since overstaying his visa, he has tried to gain legal status but failed to gain support for his asylum application. Married, he and his wife have two U.S.-born children.
Since 2012, Pangemanan has led a team of volunteers rebuilding more than 200 homes in Monmouth and Ocean counties devastated by superstorm Sandy.
Here’s a picture of Harry working on a home:
Harry Pangemanan, an undocumented immigrant from Indonesia who is helping rebuild Sandy homes on the Shore, works on a home with volunteers from Community Christian Reformed Church in Kitchener, Ontario on Cedar Avenue in the Leonardo section of Middletown, NJ Friday August 19, 2016. (Photo: Tanya Breen/staff photographer)
The pastor, Seth Kaper-Dale, was actually an opponent of Murphy’s in last year’s governor’s race.
Kaper-Dale, who ran for governor as a Green Party candidate last year, has said he is trying to save at-risk Indonesian refugees who fled their country to escape religious persecution more than a decade ago.
Seth is a passionate person who seems to take his assumed role as protector extremely seriously. He even brought up the issue of private prisons during Murphy’s visit to the church! Hear Seth on that at 1:10 of this video of the meeting.
Kaper-Dale said everybody in the community was terrified of the U.S. immigration policy.
For all three men – Pangemanan, Liem and Sanger – the day began ordinarily enough.
Liem and Sanger were dropping off their children at school when they were approached by ICE agents, Kaper-Dale said.
It was a very close call for Harry Pangemanan.
Pangemanan apparently also was in the crosshairs of ICE agents.
He was backing out of his driveway to take his oldest daughter to Metuchen High School when he saw an unmarked SUV out front inch toward his car.
Pangemanan placed the car in park, jumped out and ran inside. Then he called his daughter, who was still in the car.
“I told her, ‘Please walk to the school because I do not trust the car behind us,'” Pangemanan recalled.
He then called Kaper-Dale, who picked him up and took him to the church.
Kaper-Dale went back to Pangemanan’s house in Highland Park and filmed ICE agents as they knocked on the front door.
“ICE decides that they want to take the guy that just won the MLK award for repairing 209 houses during Hurricane Sandy and assault and threaten him,” Kaper-Dale said during a Facebook Live video.
By entering the church sanctuary, Pangemanan joined Yohanes Tasik and a couple, Arthur Jemmy and Silfia Tobing.
Liem and Sanger, who have been detained, are being held in Essex County Jail.
Can you imagine how “terrified” his daughter must have been?
Pangemanan, an ethnic Chinese Christian from Indonesia, fled his home country to escape religious persecution in the Muslim-majority nation.
Nearly a decade ago, Pangemanan spent 68 days at Elizabeth Detention Center before church members and advocates helped secure his release.
In 2012, during the Obama administration, he entered sanctuary in the same church, fearing ICE agents would deport him. He was among nine Indonesian Christians holed up in the church at the time.
ICE relented and gave him a temporary reprieve from deportation, known as a “stay of removal,” and a work permit.
Here’s to Harry, to those now detained, to Seth, and, by drawing attention to this sad affair, to Phil.
When asked whether the raids on the Indonesian Christians would increase urgency for immigrant protections, Murphy said he needs time to think but that “answering something with nothing is not an option.”
I hope that Phil Murphy can do something tangible to help Harry and others like him.
And thank you Seth Kaper-Dale. That’s what I call using a church in the best of ways. You’re my kind of man.
Here’s Seth with his Green Party running mate last year, Lisa Durden. They weren’t holding any punches back in their campaign. I’m glad that Seth and Phil are showing unity on this issue. And seemingly on others as well!
Durden’s website refers to her as “a strong fixture in her community, holding such positions as Vice Chair of Membership for Diversity Newark, formerly a New Jersey based organization that helped to bring diverse groups of people together in Newark and the surrounding cities.” Durden gained national attention after being fired by Essex County College from an Adjunct Professorship following appearing as an expert commentator on the Fox News Tucker Carlson Show, where she defended a Black Lives Matter event for inviting exclusively African-Americans.
Wow, she sounds brave!
Kaper-Dale, who has branded himself as the “only progressive running”, is running on a platform that “puts the last first”, according to his campaign. His campaign claims he is the only candidate to support Medicare for all in New Jersey at a time when federal health funding is threatened in Congress. His platform also includes the elimination of greenhouse emissions, a halt to all fossil fuel pipeline expansion, restoring both the right to vote and the right to a minimum wage for the incarcerated and the legalization of marijuana.
In making the announcement, Kaper-Dale said the following, “We need the lens through which Lisa Durden sees the world…could you imagine debates this fall, friends, with Seth Kaper-Dale, pastor and activist going up against Goldman Sachs and Christie’s Lieutenant Governor? Could you imagine debates with Lisa Durden going up against anyone the two corporate candidates might choose?“
Why yes, yes I can see that, and I’d bet that it would be marvelous. 😉