Law & Justice

Edison, Highland Park Immigrants Say Their Passports Were Stolen During Weekend Break-In

Vigil in front of the Highland Park Reformed Church on the morning of Sunday, Jan. 28. Credits: Daniel J. Munoz

HIGHLAND PARK, NJ - Two Indonesian immigrants seeking sanctuary in the Reformed Church of Highland Park say several of their passports were stolen during a pair of break-ins this past weekend.

“This does not make sense,” said Arthur Jemmy of Edison, one of the residents whose apartment was broken into. The passports of Arthur and his wife, Sofia, were taken. They were both issued by Indonesia.

Harry Pangemanan, whose house on Friday evening was found ransacked and vandalized, reported that the Indonesian passports of his wife and U.S. citizen daughter were also taken.

Sign Up for E-News

Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, who heads the church, said he first heard about the stolen passports Thursday morning, just a week after Pangemanan took sanctuary in the church.

Kaper-Dale, an immigrants rights activists, has been offering sanctuary for Jemmy, Pangemanan and a third man, Yohanes Tasik of Woodbridge.

All three men have final deportation orders from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. They have said that as Christians, they fear religious persecution should they be sent back to the Muslim-majority country.'

Jemmy had been in the church since October 2017, Tasik since mid-January and Pangemanan since Jan. 25. Pangemanan’s arrival at the church prompted visits of support from Congressman Frank Pallone, Gov. Phil Murphy and other elected officials.

On the day that ICE agents tried, unsuccessfully, to detain Pangemanan, they managed to nab two others: Gunawan Liem of Franklin Park and Roby Sanger of Metuchen

The break-in’s are believed to have happened within 24 hours. 

Kaper-Dale, after hearing the reports that the passports were stolen, headed to both men’s places of residence to confirm the news.

“A whole pile of passports were still there, all of the ones who are expired,” Kaper-Dale said. “But the two passports from the family that were valid travel documents, were gone.”

Kaper-Dale noted that whoever broke into the Edison apartment and Highland Park house would had to have known to look for valid travel documents and what they looked like.

“It seems way more sinister, at least to me,” Kaper-Dale said.

The pastor, during a Thursday afternoon press conference, doubled-down on his claim that federal immigration officials conducted the break-ins as some type of warrantless raid.

“Unless the criminals who went in, knew exactly to go for unexpired travel documents, the people who went in that house, they were trained to look for unexpired travel documents, and I would suspect that those are people who are somehow connected with the knowledge that such a thing would be helpful in the hands of ICE,” Kaper-Dale said.

A spokesperson for ICE said the reverends' allegations were ‘patently false.”

“To suggest that they would cause intentional harm to property is irresponsible and spreads undue fear in the community which this individual claims to support,” said Jennifer D. Elzea, a press secretary for ICE.

Kaper-Dale suggested that if the passports managed to find their way to ICE, it would massively expedite the process of removing Jemmy and Pangemanan from the country.

“In order for ICE to send someone away, they need a travel document, so often when they detain someone, they request that document from the consulate and then once they get that document, they can send that person away,” Kaper-Dale explained.

The reverend added: “But it’s a lot faster if you break into the house and steal the valid travel document so that once you detain someone, you can send them away immediately.”

Arthur admitted he was unsettled by the thought that his passport had fallen into the hands of federal immigration agents.

ICE officials said they didn't have any passports of the two men. 

But in the meantime, the three Indonesian men plan to stay put in the sanctuary, however long that could be.

Earlier on Thursday, several dozen Highland Park and New Brunswick residents packed into one of the main lounges for a planning meeting of the Detention and Immigration Response to Emergency Team (DIRE), on how to help the three men and prevent similar ICE arrests from happening.

A few days earlier, dozens of community activists gathered in front of the Reformed Church for a vigil to show solidarity for the three men.

TAPinto New Brunswick is partnering with ProPublica to track hate crimes in the region. The partnership is part of a nationwide project to track and report bias incidents across the country.

Editor Daniel J. Munoz,

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

New Brunswick

The Jaffe Briefing - February 22, 2018


TRENTON - If New Jersey raises the sales tax back to 7 percent, will anyone notice? That's the big question from New Jersey Policy Perspective, which questions last year's gimmick that cut the sales tax rate to 6.625 percent. NJ 101.5reports that tax cut equates to $2 a week in "savings" for middle-class families. Meanwhile, this ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 21, 2018


ON THE HIGHWAY - Authorities were frantically looking into a "mystery tar" that appeared suddenly on cars driving along I-295 in South Jersey, causing tires to gel with the road. They quickly realized that a stretch of the highway in Salem County was smeared with liquid asphalt, leaked from a tanker and causing dozens of cars to get ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 20, 2018


STATEWIDE - Jittery parents are sending their jittery kids to jittery schools this morning, as classes resume after a President's Day weekend filled with wall-to-wall news coverage about gun safety. School districts statewide have been reporting threats - all thankfully not credible - as district leaders are on the highest alert. East Brunswick, for ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 16, 2018


E STREET - While a tired nation is demanding gun control (yet again), Springsteen guitarist Stevie Van Zandt is having none of it. No stranger to political opinions, the New Jersey icon tweeted "What happened to us? We are averaging 2 school shootings per week AND WE DO NOTHING ABOUT IT!" Many tone-deaf politicians on Capitol Hill ...

The Jaffe Briefing - January 15, 2018


TRENTON - As state lawmakers are set to announce a bill at 11 a.m. to decriminalize pot - an issue that has consumed the Statehouse -  the Record is reporting on an often-ignored issue: the state's ridiculously antiquated liquor laws. For example, supermarkets in the state can only have up to two liquor licenses, stemming ...

The Jaffe Briefing - February 14, 2018


ON AIR - Gov. Phil Murphy had his very first "Ask the Governor" monthly program last night. He appeared on News 12 New Jersey to field your questions about all things New Jersey. Impossible to recap an hour segment. Of course, we will try: New Jersey should be a better place to retire. The state pension mess will be solved.

Trees Have Sex? Rutgers Researchers Have All the Answers

February 22, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - A few years ago, Rutgers researcher Jennifer Blake-Mahmud was working on a botany project in Virginia when colleagues pointed out a striped maple, a common tree in the understory of mountain forests from Nova Scotia to Georgia. 


“They told me, ‘We think it switches sex from year to year, but we don’t know why,’ and I said, ...

Rutgers Union Rally Planned Friday for $15 Minimum Wage

New Brunswick, NJ - On Friday, February 23, student groups, a coalition of Rutgers unions, and representatives from campuses across the nation will hold a rally and march on College Avenue to demand a $15 minimum wage.

The action, initiated by the Rutgers chapter of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and the Rutgers American Association of University Professors - American Federation of ...

RU Students Rejoice: Starbucks Reopens at The Yard@College Avenue

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - In what many consider to be the biggest news of the day on the Rutgers University campus, the Starbucks at The Yard@College Avenue has once again reopened.

Officials with the New Brunswick Development Corp. reported this morning that the popular coffeehouse is open "for good."

The Starbucks at The Yard@College Avenue, located at the corner of College ...

Valeski: Placing Police Officers in Schools was Planned for Two Years

February 21, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - In the midst of a media firestorm Tuesday, Dr. Victor Valeski, East Brunswick Superintendent of Schools, fielded questions from local and national journalists regarding the placement of armed police officers inside each of the district's K-12 buildings.  The move seemed to many as a "knee-jerk" reaction to the fear generated by the massacre of ...

Shouts of Racial Slurs Bring Police to Sparta Theatre

February 21, 2018

SPARTA, NJ – Sparta police were called to the New Vision Sparta Theater on Sunday night because of a woman shouting slurs in a screening of Black Panther.

Former New Jersey Assembly candidate Michael Grace was in the theater when two people started yelling racial slurs including “look at these ‘n-word’” and “can you believe these ...


Letter to the Editor: Low-Income Families Who Need Safe Cribs Have Nowhere to Go

February 15, 2018

One recent email came from a pastor in East Orange, sharing the struggles of a young couple who have no safe place for their baby to sleep.

Then, there was also a phone call from a Newark hospital, making its fourth request in two years, as well as a frantic text from Puerto Rico, for a family who lost everything in the hurricane.

They all pleaded for the same thing: A safe crib for a ...

Somerset Patriots Sign Frontier League All-Star RHP Randy McCurry

February 17, 2018

The Somerset Patriots have announced the signing of right-handed relief pitcher Randy McCurry for the 2018 season.

“I’m excited to play in the Atlantic League this year,” said McCurry. “It’ll be a transition for me but I am ready to face some really good competition and help the team win.”

McCurry enters his first season with the Somerset Patriots and ...