60 Kids Orphaned Or Fatherless In One Night, Says NJ Reverend
Deportations are not a new phenomenon in the U.S. but the unusual cruelty dealt out by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) under the Trump administration is breaking new ground – while breaking some families’ hearts.
ICE arrested two New Jersey men of Indonesian descent, Gunawan Liem and Roby Sanger, Jan. 25 as they were bringing their children to school. A third man, Harry Pangemanan, escaped ICE and fled to take sanctuary at the Reformed Church of Highland Park (RCHP) in Middlesex County. All three men have been living in the U.S. for 20 years after fleeing Indonesia’s violent persecution of Christians in the late 1990s. Their children are U.S. citizens.
RCHP, like a growing number of churches across the U.S., is bucking the federal immigration enforcement system in favor of the humanitarian work of providing sanctuary to immigrants facing deportation. The church currently offers sanctuary to two other immigrants, including one who has been living at the church for more than three months. For people who value family bonds, it’s not hard to understand why.
“We had one night when 35 dads were taken in one night from Avenel, New Jersey, from the same apartment complex. I had 60 kids become orphans that night or become fatherless,” RCHP Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale told New York’s PIX11 news outlet.
A Nightmare Come True
While ICE raids like the one at the apartment complex in Avenel, New Jersey recall the fierce cruelty of the World War II Gestapo, they are part and parcel of Trump’s plan to make America “great” again.
Right after his election, Trump pledged to deport 2 to 3 million people, insinuating incorrectly that they’re all “criminals.” But the story of how Trump’s immigration plan has unfolded is very different.
People being threatened with deportation include those with no criminal records, like the New Jersey fathers, and DREAMers, whose parents brought them to the country at a young age. Rescinding the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program protecting DREAMers from deportation is especially heartless given that the DACA recipients registered with the government under the condition that they would be protected.
Immigrants without documentation, who were once allowed to stay at ICE’s discretion, are finding out that the country has taken a hard turn toward xenophobia under Trump. While the immigrants are losing their homes, families, security, and livelihoods, the U.S. also is shedding many contributing members of society, such as New Jersey’s Pangemanan, who recently won a Martin Luther King, Jr. service award for helping to rebuild more than 200 houses after Hurricane Sandy.
(Update: While other fathers (& likely mothers, too) are being deported, a judge issued a temporary restraining order Feb. 2 to delay the deportation in this case. However, the men are still being held at the detention center until their case proceeds.)
Tempting Economic Catastrophe
Many Trump supporters don’t seem to realize that most undocumented immigrants pay taxes but are blocked from receiving benefits from any federal assistance programs. Not only that, but deportation is incredibly expensive in terms of immediate costs and long-term revenue loss.
The American Action Forum, a conservative think-tank, estimated the cost of mass deportation at $400-600 billion, according to a 2015 report. However, that estimate only covers costs to “apprehend, detain, legally process, and transport” immigrants. It doesn’t touch other items on Trump’s wish list such as increasing the number of ICE and Border Patrol officers, building more border wall, or adding more detention facilities.
The long-term economic costs of mass deportation are much greater, to the tune of a $1.6 trillion decline in real GDP over 20 years due to millions of people dropping out of the economy.
What Can You Do
While it’s easy to be outraged by the inhumanity of ripping families apart and shipping contributing members of society back to places where they’re not safe, keep in mind that many people are taking action to protect immigrants and our social fabric.
United We Dream is rallying activists to defend immigrant rights across the nation, including civil disobedience actions in U.S. Senate offices.
Other groups across the nation are holding immigration justice rallies and protests outside detention centers, offering sanctuary to those in danger of deportation, donating to support United We Dream‘s activism, and writing letters in support of those detained.
We must stand united in saying #ImmigrantRightsAreHumanRights