FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ - Mayor Phillip Kramer commented on the arrest and detainment of a Franklin Park man by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, during Tuesday's council meeting.
Gunawan Liem left his home to drop off his daughter at her bus stop on Jan. 25 and never returned.
"To my understanding, this is a man who came here legally, and due to paperwork snafus or his lack of understanding of red tape that this country has, he missed the deadline," Kramer said. "He is in danger of going back to a country where he will suffer for his religion."
Kramer said he is not for open borders and believes we should limit entry in some way, but at the same time, we should also use more common sense and less rhetoric.
"We need to stop arguing in extremes and talk about the realities and in particular the realities of the case of Mr. Liem, I think is a case that if you listen to the facts, your heart will go out to him," Kramer said.
Local residents addressed the council to voice their concerns and asked them to take action even if ultimately any gesture taken on the local level will only result in a symbolic act since removal orders are handled on the federal level.
One of the suggestions was to pass a resolution supporting the Indonesian Family Refugee Protection Act.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney on May 24, 2017, to the House Judiciary Committee. It authorizes a qualifying Indonesian citizen whose asylum claim was denied solely upon a failure to meet the one-year application filing deadline, to file a motion to reopen such claim.
If the bill becomes law the motion must be filed within two years beginning on the date of enactment of the bill.
State law officials have recently taken action regarding the arrest and detainment of Indonesian Christians.
State attorney general Gurbir Grewal wrote a letter questioning a move by federal immigration agent to detain Liem and Roby Sanger of Metuchen. Sanger was also arrested and detained after he dropped his daughter off at school.
Grewal, in his letter dated Jan. 25, to Kirstjen Nielsen, US Secretary of Homeland Security, said he had “serious concerns” about the feds going after undocumented immigrants at “sensitive locations,” that being schools, courthouses and places of worship.
On Feb. 2, U.S. district judge Esther Salas issued a temporary restraining order to ICE agents, preventing them from moving forward with any deportation attempts of Indonesian Christians living in New Jersey without legal status.
Salas issued the restraining order in response to a lawsuit filed by the ACLU-NJ's Immigrants' Rights Project.
The argument of the class action suit was two-fold. It argued first, that the plaintiff’s detention and deportation would deprive them of a constitutionally-guaranteed right to apply for asylum.
Second, the suit argued that U.S. law prohibits deportation back to a country where the person could face religious persecution and violence.
The hold is only in effect until Salas makes a decision on the case, Farrin Anello, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU-NJ, whose involved with the case noted.
Liem and the other plaintiffs will have to have their written arguments by Feb. 16, the defendant's response by March 2, and counter-arguments from the plaintiffs by March 9.
ICE Public Affairs Officer, Emilio Dabul said in an emailed statement, "our immigration system provides extensive legal process...ICE believes that these individuals have already availed themselves of this process and that the removal orders they received as part of that process should be executed."
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