ICE Arrests Undocumented Immigrant on Montgomery Co. Church Grounds

    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested an undocumented immigrant on the grounds of a Montgomery County church last week — and immigrant rights groups are expressing their outrage.

    Federal agents found Binsar Siahaan, an undocumented Indonesian immigrant, at Glenmont United Methodist Church, where he worked as a caretaker — but said they were only checking Siahaan’s ankle monitor from a prior detainment, according to the group Congregation Action Network.

    Once Siahaan stepped outside, however, ICE arrested and detained him in Baltimore. He is now in a detention center in Georgia, awaiting deportation.

    Immigrant rights groups and members of Maryland’s congressional delegation are scrambling to prevent Siahaan’s deportation. He has lived in the U.S. for three decades.

    “I denounce the methods used by ICE in the detention of Mr. Siahaan,” Rev. Dr. Matt Braddock, senior Minister of Christ Congregational Church in Silver Spring, said in a statement.

    “Arresting him under false pretenses on church property in front of his family undermines ICE policy and convention when it comes to removing people from sensitive locations. I am worried about what ICE’s actions foretell for immigrant families and their safety at hospitals, schools, and houses of worship if we let this go unchecked.”

    Siahaan’s attorney has filed for a temporary restraining order, in hopes of blocking his deportation, according to Congregation Action Network. Because ICE entered Siahaan’s home without a warrant, his attorney contends that his arrest was illegal.

    Without addressing the question of whether Siahaan’s arrest was legal, ICE in a statement said Siahaan received “full due process.”

    Faith group organizations say that Siahaan’s detainment was meant to intimidate the faith community, which often offers sanctuaries to immigrant families. All faith communities should be sacred, Congregation Action Network said in a statement.

    “The church and the surrounding property, including the Siahaans’ home are sensitive locations. ICE is violating its own policy to detain a man that poses no threat to the community,” said Rich Morales, immigration policy and program director for LA RED Faith in Action.

    “This is a clear effort by ICE to alarm and scare the faith community. If ICE is willing to arrest people on church property, what is stopping them from arresting and deporting immigrant families from hospitals and schools? We will continue to defend ourselves and to offer sanctuary to immigrant families as long as ICE insists on disappearing our friends and neighbors.”

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    Elizabeth Shwe
    Shwe covered California state politics during her internship at The Sacramento Bee. She is a 2020 graduate of Princeton University with a degree in political science. At Princeton she was a producer for WPRB 103.3 FM News & Culture section, the station’s only long form podcast-type program. Shwe also wrote for The Daily Princetonian, and tutored with the Petey Greene Program, which offers free tutoring to incarcerated people. Shwe is a Report for America corps member.