Criminalizing our best neighbors in Trump World | Editorial

The following is an excerpt from originally published March 19, 2017.

There is a small band of exceptional people in Middlesex County who rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy for free, as part of their work with the Reformed Church of Highland Park.

There is no saintlier conduct than this. At a time when we seem to have lost our way - where distrust is the tenet of a creeping nationalism - these are the people who provide daily reminders of what it means to be good neighbors and good Americans.

Donald Trump classifies them as criminals.

They're unauthorized immigrants from places like Indonesia, Burkina Faso, Sri Lanka, and Kenya, many have been here for decades, and they're scared. New Jersey hasn't been targeted for deportation raids (yet) but with 500,000 such people - many under final deportation orders - it's doubtful they'll be overlooked much longer.


Under Obama, They Were Check-ins. Under Trump, They Could Mean Deportation.

The following is an excerpt from WNYC  originally published March 15, 2017.

Harry Pangemanan was never all that handy. But after Sandy hit, he started cleaning up along the Jersey Shore. He learned from volunteers who came from across the country how to hang drywall and install a bathroom. The 46-year-old father of two would go on to lead the rebuilding of about 200 homes in neighborhoods affected by the storm.

"If community comes together, community helps together, then everything we think is impossible is possible," Pangeman said as he revealed his latest rebuild in Keyport last month. 

Pangemanan, who lives in Highland Park, N.J., runs a church nonprofit that does this kind of work. His staff is made up of refugees from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Burkina Faso, volunteering their time. Some in the group worry they won't be able to continue their work given President Trump's tough immigration policy. But it's Pangemanan himself who is in the crosshairs of the federal government. 

Pangemanan, an immigrant from Indonesia who is in the country illegally, is one of thousands who are required to periodically check in with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. It's a strategy that allows ICE to track those with deportation orders who are not deemed security threats.

Read more at WNYC.

Hamilton church volunteers denied entry to U.S. so they wouldn't 'steal American jobs'

The following is an excerpt from CBC originally published on March 13, 2017.

A group of church volunteers from Hamilton heading south to do relief work were denied entry to the U.S. for fear they would take American construction jobs, said a spokesperson for the church.

The 12-person contingent from Hamilton's Rehoboth United Reformed Church was travelling by road on the morning of Saturday, March 11, to New Jersey. 

Erik Hoeksema, the church's outreach director who was travelling with the group, said they intended to spend March break cleaning up and rehabilitating neighbourhoods affected by Hurricane Sandy.

U.S. border law says Canadians do not require a visa to enter the country for volunteer work, as long as they can provide proof that their work will not be compensated.

'If you can't get a church van with 12 white folks through (the border), how much worse is it for any person of colour?'- Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, New Jersey

Hoeksema says the group was told they had failed to have a letter sent from the host church "paroling" them into the country.

Read more at CBC.

Immigrant communities in the U.S. brace for deportations in wake of new crackdown

The following is an excerpt from The Globe and Mail originally published February 22, 2017.

Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale of the Reformed Church of Highland Park in New Jersey said that there is “tremendous anxiety” among the members of his congregation, which includes undocumented immigrants from Indonesia who have lived in the United States for more than 15 years.

“What’s most troubling now is what this is doing to the mental health of our community,” Mr. Kaper-Dale said. Children are frightened about the possibility of their parents being taken away, which is sometimes causing behavioural issues at school, he said.

The church is preparing to act as a physical sanctuary, if necessary, for undocumented immigrants at risk of deportation, something it already did once back in 2012. In recent years, his community had a kind of respite from immigration enforcement actions, Mr. Kaper-Dale said, but he believes that time is now at an end.

On Tuesday, for example, members of his church accompanied an undocumented immigrant to a regular check-in at a local ICE office. Their role was to reassure and to watch for anything unexpected, like what occurred earlier this month in Phoenix.

“We just need this President to know he’s being cruel,” said Mr. Kaper-Dale, who is running for governor of New Jersey on the Green Party ticket. “He’s surely not concerned about security. There’s nothing secure about creating a state of fear and chaos.”

Read more at The Globe and Mail

Residents debate proposed immigrant resolution in Highland Park

The following is an excerpt from published February 22, 2017.

Gubernatorial candidate the Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale of the Reformed Church of Highland Park said "I do believe this resolution should be called sanctuary city."

"Low-hanging fruit is what ICE goes for," he said. "If you don't claim yourself as a sanctuary city, to me it feels like you're inviting your town to be low-hanging fruit. … "

He thanked the borough for allowing the church to house nine people for 11 months who would have been deported during the Obama administration.

He said the executive orders now coming out "are not carefully thought out" and "link together all sorts of people as if they are all deportable categories of equal nature."

"Our congregation is committed to offering physical sanctuary again," he said, adding that he hopes he would have the borough's blessing.


NJ pastor offers church as sanctuary to undocumented immigrants during ICE raids

The following is an excerpt from Pix11 originally published on February 20, 2017.

A New Jersey pastor is offering his church to undocumented immigrants who face possible deportations during U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement raids.

The Reformed Church of Highland Park is the ultimate sanctuary church. Its pastor, Reverend Seth Kaper-Dale, is a well-known immigrant and refugee advocate who is now running for governor of New Jersey on the Green Party line.

In 2012, this church gave shelter to nine Indonesian immigrants facing possible deportation.

Sunday school classrooms were turned into bedrooms and showers were installed.

Reverend Kaper-Dale said he's ready to do it all over again.

Read more atPix11.

Clergy, religious organizations and advocates mobilize to help immigrants facing deportation

The following is an excerpt from originally published February 17, 2017.

The Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, a gubernatorial candidate for the Green Party in New Jersey and pastor of the Reformed Church of Highland Park, said he knows of hundreds of people in situations just like Guerrero’s who have been successfully checking in with immigration officials. This year, he said, it’s different, with many fearing their next check-in dates.

“We are looking to support those people who have final deportation orders and have not been convicted of a major crime,’’ said Kaper-Dale, who is among the clergy leading efforts in his community. “We want to be supportive of them.”

An immigrant and refugee advocate, Kaper-Dale in 2012 gave shelter at his church to nine Indonesian immigrants at risk of deportation. The church converted Sunday school classrooms into bedrooms and installed showers. The immigrants lived at the church for nine months.

“We are ready now to offer physical sanctuary,’’ said Kaper-Dale, who has also helped resettle recently arrived refugees.

Kaper-Dale said he has talked to town officials in Highland Park about possibly allowing “Nixle Alerts,” which notify local people of emergencies, to also include information about ICE activity in the area. He said that if ICE officials are spotted in town, an alert would go out to residents.

He said his church would also have teams of volunteers on call and available to help people who have had a family member detained or deported.


Sanctuary Churches Brace For Clash With Trump Administration Listen· 4:34

The following is an excerpt from NPR  originally published February 16, 2017.

"God most definitely doesn't want to break up families," says Seth Kaper-Dale, pastor of the Reformed Church of Highland Park in New Jersey. In 2012, the church offered sanctuary to nine Indonesian immigrants who were set for deportation. Almost a year later, they reached an agreement with ICE allowing them to stay for now.

"Sanctuary works," says Kaper-Dale. "I can tell you from our own experience that all nine people who lived here have kept their families together, have been able to raise their children, have been able to go back to their jobs. Is sanctuary brutally hard? Yes. But it is a tool that we will use, if we're forced by a brutal regime to use it."

Read more at NPR