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.
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.