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Updated: Franklin Park Man Who Fled Religious Persecution Arrested By ICE, Facing Deportation

Gunawan Liem, pictured here with his children, was arrested Jan. 25 by ICE agents and now faces deportation to Indonesia. (Photo: Change.org).

Update 2: NJ Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said he has “serious concerns” regarding how ICE picked up Liem and Sanger, according to a press release.

In a Jan. 25 letter to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, Grewal wrote that “the fact that ICE arrested two parents as they were driving away from their children’s school is deeply upsetting. I am not aware of any exigent or unique circumstances here that would justify such a departure from ICE’s settled policy on sensitive locations.”

“Undoubtedly, this creates a chilling environment for parents, who were simply ensuring that their children arrived to school safely,” he wrote. “I trust that you will personally evaluate the circumstances surrounding this enforcement action and take any and all appropriate measures to remedy any violation of ICE policy.”

Grewal also wrote that courthouses and state facilities should be considered “sensitive facilities” where ICE operations are concerned.

“A s a former federal prosecutor, county prosecutor, and now the chief law enforcement officer for New Jersey, I fully understand the need to enforce our nation’s laws, but I am equally committed to ensuring that all of the residents of New Jersey have a safe environment to attend to their lives, whether it be to attend school, participate in our judicial system, or access state government services,” he wrote.”

Update: Mayor Phil Kramer on Jan. 26 posted the following on his facebook page: “The recent arrest of Gunawan Liem, an Indonesian living in Franklin Park who fled his country due to religious persecution, by ICE is deplorable. Much of this nation’s foundations were based on people fleeing religious persecution. Franklin police were not involved before, during or after the arrest. There has been no contact between ICE and our police force on this matter.”

Original Story: A Franklin Park man who fled religious persecution in Indonesia was arrested Jan. 25 by U.S. Immigration and Customs, and is in danger of being deported.

Multiple published reports say that Gunawan Liem, 54, was detained by ICE agents after dropping off his daughter at school. Liem, who came to this country in 1999 on a B1-B2 visa, had applied for asylum but was denied.

Liem was one of two Indonesians reportedly arrested by ICE on Jan. 25, the other was Roby Sanger of Metuchen, according to the reports.

Liem was one of a number of Indonesian Christians who fled their home country to escape what they said was persecution by radical Islamicists. Indonesia is a Muslim-majority country. He had previously sought refuge at the Reformed Church of Highland Park.

Liem and Sanger are being held at the Essex County Jail in Newark, according to court records.

ICE spokesman Emilio Dabul said in a prepared statement that Liem and Sanger “have an order of removal from the United States issued by an immigration judge and upheld by the Board of Immigration Appeals.”

Dabul added that ICE regularly conducts enforcement actions around the country, “targeting criminal aliens and other immigration violators who are in the U.S. in violation of federal law.”

Liem worked as a data entry operator for New England Motor Freight of Elizabeth, according to his LinkedIn profile.

According to an online petition published several years ago, Liem entered the United States on Feb. 27, 1999 with a valid B1-B2 visa, which allows a temporary stay up to six months in the country for business of pleasure.

According to the petition, Liem said he came to the United States, “seeking refuge from the mistreatment and discrimination that we faced in Indonesia as practicing Christians. In Indonesia, violent, fundamentalist Muslims were taking over the town I lived in. It became very difficult for me to practice my religion freely. Muslims were burning down the Christian churches and for this I feared for my life.”

In June 2012, facing deportation, Liem left his job and sought refuge in the Reformed Church of Highland Park, according to the petition.

Liem applied for asylum, but, according to published reports, was denied because his application was deemed to have been filed past the one-year deadline from the time he entered the country.

Liem left the church’s sanctuary in February of 2013, according to the petition.

 

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