Passports stolen from homes of Indonesian men seeking sanctuary

Posted: Updated:
HIGHLAND PARK -

Passports belonging to two Indonesian immigrants who are seeking sanctuary in the United States were stolen when their homes were burglarized.

Harry Pongemanan and Arthur Jemmy have been living in the U.S. since the 1990s after fleeing religious persecution. The men were able to secure jobs and started families but have now been targeted for deportation.

The men have been hiding out in the Reformed Church of Highland Park until their immigration status can be worked out. But while they have been hiding, their homes were broken into. 

It was not known if the homes were burglarized as a result of a hate crime or if it was the work of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.

RELATED: Supporters gather at church where immigrants have sought refuge
RELATED: Break-ins reported at homes of 2 men seeking refuge at church

In both cases, valid Indonesian passports were stolen. The thieves left the expired documents behind.

Pastor Seth Kaper-Dale, who has been helping the men, says that he sees the thefts as evidence of a bias crime and is concerned with who committed it.

“Potentially that could be a very sophisticated anti-immigrant person who wants to give ICE travel documents to make it easy to deport someone,” Kaper-Dale says. "Or maybe it is ICE or some arm of ICE that's doing this kind of horrible thing."

ICE has denied having any involvement in the crimes.

A spokesperson for the agency says "...to suggest that ICE law enforcement officers were involved in such an incident is patently false...To suggest that they would cause intentional harm to property is irresponsible and spreads undue fear in the community, which [Kaper-Dale] claims to support."

Jemmy moved into the church in October to avoid deportation. Pongemanan moved in last week after ICE attempted to detain him while taking his daughter to school.

Kaper-Dale says that he does not believe that these are random burglaries.

“I don’t believe that for a minute. I believe that this is directly linked to Gov. [Phil] Murphy coming and showing support for people in sanctuary,” he says.

Gov. Murphy has said that he is concerned about the deportations. He visited with the men last week. The New Jersey attorney general has also expressed some concerns.

Highland Park and Edison police are investigating the break-ins.

  • New Jersey SlideshowsSlideshowsMore>>

  • Veterans Day Discounts for 2018

    Veterans Day Discounts for 2018

    Saturday, November 10 2018 5:21 AM EST2018-11-10 10:21:13 GMT

    Many restaurant chains are offering discounts for veterans and active military personnel on Veterans Day. 

    Many restaurant chains are offering discounts for veterans and active military personnel on Veterans Day. 

  • Deadly wildfire devastates Northern California town

    Deadly wildfire devastates Northern California town

    Only a day after it began, the fire near the town of Paradise had grown to nearly 110 square miles and investigators found five people dead in vehicles that were torched by the flames.

    Only a day after it began, the fire near the town of Paradise had grown to nearly 110 square miles and investigators found five people dead in vehicles that were torched by the flames.

  • Just Married in New Jersey

    Just Married in New Jersey

    News 12 New Jersey wants to announce your wedding.News 12 New Jersey wants to announce your wedding.

    News 12 New Jersey wants to announce your wedding. If you were married in the past 90 days, please submit your photos via Twitter or Instagram using #JustMarriedNJ.  

    News 12 New Jersey wants to announce your wedding. If you were married in the past 90 days, please submit your photos via Twitter or Instagram using #JustMarriedNJ.  

sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 20 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login or create an account to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."