In the early morning hours of Sept. 10, agents from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement entered the grounds of Glenmont United Methodist Church in Silver Spring, Md. They knocked on the door of church caretaker Binsar Siahaan’s house, where he lives with his wife and two American-born teenaged children.
The agents lured Binsar outside and then promptly arrested him. Binsar has since been transferred to infamous Irwin Detention Center in Georgia, to await deportation. Faith leaders and elected officials are all working for his release.
Binsar and his wife—both devout Christians from Indonesia, a country where Christians are frequently persecuted—have pending appeals on their asylum cases. Binsar is not a flight risk; he has no criminal background and has lived in this country since 1989. There was absolutely no compelling reason for ICE agents to break their own clearly stated policy on “sensitive locations” to enter church grounds, and then tell lies in order to make an arrest of an undocumented immigrant.
This is not the first time ICE agents have broken their promise to honor the sanctity of houses of worship within miles of the nation’s capital. In February 2017, in what was viewed as an opening salvo of the newly unshackled ICE in the new Trump administration, agents targeted another United Methodist Church—this one, a hypothermia unit for homeless people.
Many of our sites have offices in churches, meet clients in churches, and hold immigration legal clinics in churches.
If churches and other houses of worship have become fair game for ICE agents, how do we guarantee the safety and security of our clients, staff, and volunteers?
Wherever you live—from Baltimore to Hawaii, from Florida to California, and everywhere in between—our government’s decision to break long-established precedent is a danger for all of us.
We urge you to follow the guidance of Bishop LaTrelle Easterling from the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, and “make some noise” of behalf of Binsar Siahaan, his family, and our immigrant brothers and sisters.
The General Board of Church and Society (GBCS) has created a petition to #FreeBinsar. NJFON has signed on, and we encourage everyone to sign and circulate ASAP. You can also read GBCS’ statement here.
Here are additional ways to get involved now:
- Engage on social media! Always use the hashtag #FreeBinsar, and here are some sample tweets:
@ChrisVanHollen @SenatorCardin @RepRaskin @RepDavidTrone or your own senators and U.S. representatives:
It’s been days since Baltimore ICE arrested Binsar Siahaan on church grounds. Will you take public action for his release and initiate an investigation into ICE’s actions? #freeBinsar
Binsar belongs in Silver Spring with his family– not 800 miles away in a Georgia detention center where three people have already died from Covid-19. We need your public action for his release and to initiate an investigation into ICE’s actions. #freeBinsar
ICE lied to Binsar Siahaan and arrested him on church grounds. This is an unprecedented attack on faith communities and immigrants of faith. People across Maryland and across the US depend on your leadership now to fight for Binsar’s release, reunite him with his family, and hold ICE accountable. #FreeBinsar
Baltimore ICE’s reckless actions pose a huge risk for immigrants throughout the country who are in sensitive locations–whether attending schools, receiving care in hospitals and health facilities, or seeking refuge in faith communities. People across Maryland and across the US depend on your leadership now to fight for Binsar’s release, reunite him with his family, and hold ICE accountable. #FreeBinsar