HIGHLAND PARK, NJ - Dozens of community members rallied in front of The Reformed Church of Highland Park on Friday afternoon to voice their opposition towards the recent detainment of local resident Cloyd Edralin by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The rally was planned just four days after Edralin, 47, a green card holder from the Philippines and father to four children who are U.S. citizens, was arrested outside his home for an 11-year-old charge for possession of an air rifle. Community members, local students, parishioners and advocacy groups gathered to support the Edralin family and to challenge the behavior of ICE officers.
“We’re here today because of a charge that occurred 11 years ago,” said Reverend Seth Kaper-Dale, co-pastor of the Reformed Church of Highland Park. “This agency, ICE, has decided it needs to be the morality police, and punish people for mistakes that have already been made in full.”
Edralin has held legal residence in the U.S. for over 30 years, and has been married to his wife Brandi Davison-Edralin, a U.S. citizen, since 1996. Together they have four children, ages 11 to 22. In 2007, Edralin was struggling with a methamphetamine addiction and was pulled over for having drugs within his vehicle. The drug charges were dropped, but Edralin was charged with illegal possession of an air rifle, which he served probation for. This conviction prevented him from applying for citizenship.
Edralin has since been recovering from his addiction and makes bimonthly visits to local rehabilitation institutions to “offer hope and inspiration to those that are in recovery,” said Davison-Edralin, adding that her husband always finds small ways to positively impact his community, from shoveling snow from the driveways of elderly neighbors to helping out around the local softball complex.
Local Highland Park residents consider him to be an asset to the community, and shared of their personal relationships with Edralin and his family.
“[Cloyd] shared with me some of his tough times, and some of the challenges he faced from when he was a young boy,” said John Wenz, a local resident and close friend of Edralin. “But he also spoke with me about his American dreams. He was trying to pull his life together and he was making incredible strides. He let me know that he was working as hard as he could and as best as he could because he loved his family.”
Edralin’s arrest follows President Trump’s executive order in January 2017, stating that non-citizens with criminal charges may be prioritized targets for deportation. Since this federal crackdown, there has been a surge in ICE arrests in New Jersey, which include the detainment of two local immigrant fathers in Metuchen and Gunawan Liem of Franklin Park earlier this year, and another who took refuge in the Reformed Church of Highland Park.
But given his status as a legal resident, Davison-Edralin said her family was not initially concerned with President Trump’s new immigration policies.
“I thought we were totally fine,” said Davison-Edralin. “I actually thought my husband was joking when he called to tell me to say he had been picked up by ICE.”
Federal officers had approached Edralin on June 4th at approximately 5:30am as he was leaving his home in Highland Park to go to work as a machinist, a job he had accepted just two weeks prior. Without being given the chance to inform his family, Edralin was taken to a Newark facility for processing and later brought to the Elizabeth Contract Detention Facility, where he is currently being held. According to family members, Edralin has since requested a bond hearing to make bail. If he is not awarded bail, he will be forced to fight his deportation from within the detention center.
Given Edralin’s history of addiction, deportation to the Philippines could be life threatening.
Since 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines has lead what is considered to be a war on drugs, giving the authority to officers to kill anyone suspected of using or selling drugs. Given Edralin’s history of addiction, deportation to the Philippines could thus be life threatening.
“I saw people here from all over the political spectrum, who can agree that this is just insane,” said Reverend Kaper-Dale. “To talk to folks that may be generally right-leaning on immigration here, this even crossed the line for them.”
For this reason, the rally served as a means to not only to raise legal funds and bring justice to their family, but also to bring awareness to the local community.
“One of the reasons that I decided to speak out about what happened to my family is that this is something that potentially could happen to over 13 million families of legal immigrants of this country,” Davison-Edralin said. “Yes, my husband made a mistake. Yes, he served his time. Yes, he’s done everything he can to keep himself moving forward, and doing better with his life. Out of nowhere for this to come up and for him to be held in detention while its sorted out is unconscionable.”
As the Edralin family awaits news of their father and husband, Reverend Kaper-Dale is working to gather the support and legislative action of New Jersey’s representatives - none of whom attended the rally.
“We must demand that our state officials put some teeth behind their promises to make this a sanctuary state, because right now, it’s nothing more than rhetoric,” Reverend Kaper-Dale said. “We have people being destroyed by a renegade agency, and we don’t have our state officials offering any sort of response.”
Highland Park residents are also working to ensure that the community’s own action does not stop with this rally. A clipboard was passed around to collect the names of local residents and organizations that could offer support to the cause, and free neon yellow t-shirt displaying the contact information for D.I.R.E, a local group working to support community members who are detained by ICE.
“I think it’s very important that the community is aware, since there are others in the community that may be facing the same situation,” said Ellen Whitt, local resident and active member of both the Central Jersey Coalition for Endless War and D.I.R.E. “Nobody anywhere is going to move unless they think there is a grassroots movement demanding change on these issue. We want ICE to feel pressure and shame about this case, and I hope there will be changes made.”