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    A judge puts a halt to the immediate deportation of two men taken off the street in an immigration raid in New Jersey last week. Watch video

    A federal judge in Newark on Friday issued a temporary restraining order halting the deportations of two Indonesian Christians taken into custody last week while they were dropping their daughters off for school.

    U.S. District Judge Esther Salas issued the order after the ACLU went to court, arguing that the summary deportation of the men violated their due process and deprived them of the opportunity to argue their case for asylum.

    "These community members, our neighbors, are entitled to argue their case with the protections of due process, especially when the stakes are life-and-death," said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Amol Sinha.

    Gunawan Liem of Franklin Park and Roby Sanger of Metuchen, who both had pending removal orders, were arrested a week ago without warning by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as part of an increasingly aggressive enforcement effort by the Trump Administration targeting illegal immigration.

    A third man, Harry Pangemanan, was not home when ICE agents showed up at his house and he sought sanctuary at the Reformed Church of Highland Park, where Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale has long been championing the cause of the Indonesian Christian community.

    "This case involves life-and-death stakes and we are simply asking that these longtime residents be given opportunity to show that they are entitled to remain here," said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project. "As in other recent similar cases in Detroit, Boston, Miami and Los Angeles involving mass deportations, we are asking the court to make clear that the fundamental protections of due process apply to non-citizens."

    ICE officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    Earlier this week, a federal judge in a similar case in Massachusetts also ordered the government to halt the removal of another group of Indonesian Christians, according to the ACLU, which filed that case too.

    The judge ruled that they needed more time to file and receive decisions on motions to re-open their immigration cases over their claims of increasingly perilous conditions for Christians in Indonesia, a predominately Muslim nation.

    indonesiansSomers008.JPGA sign reads "Let the stay" at The Reformed Church of Highland Park. (Jody Somers | For The Star-Ledger) 

    According to court documents filed in the New Jersey case, the ACLU sought stays of removal for Liem, Sanger and others to give them a reasonable period of time "to compile and present evidence that would permit them to file motions to reopen their removal cases, including evidence of recent changes in country conditions that make Indonesia increasingly dangerous for Christians."

    In its the complaint against ICE, its Newark director for enforcement and removal, and the Department of Homeland Security, the ACLU said most of those facing detention had U.S. citizen children, and argued their removal would rip apart families.

    "They are devout and extremely active in their churches, some in official roles. Many volunteer their time to help disadvantaged members of their local community and beyond: participating in disaster relief efforts and volunteering through their churches," they said in the complaint.

    In a statement, Farrin Anello, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of New Jersey, said the Constitution and laws recognizes that people must not be jailed or deported without an opportunity to seek court review of those harsh actions.

    "We are extremely heartened and relieved that Judge Salas has ruled that these families may not be deported while she reviews their case," she said.

    Ted Sherman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TedShermanSL. Facebook: @TedSherman.reporter. Find on Facebook.

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    Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam said he is paying out of his own pocket for the trip because he believes legal weed could "jump-start" the city's volatile economy. Watch video

    A handful of lawmakers and Atlantic City's mayor are headed to Nevada for a brief "fact-finding" trip next week to learn from another casino-operating state's experience of launching a marijuana economy seven months ago.

    As hopeful entrepreneurs wait for the state Legislature and Gov. Phil Murphy to make good on a promise to legalize cannabis for adults, the New Jersey Cannabis Industry Association and Nevada lawmakers coordinated the 2-1/2-day trip to educate eager and curious government officials and business leaders.

    Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam said he is paying out of his own pocket for the trip because he believes legal weed could "jump-start" the city's volatile economy.

    "The key for me is to get more knowledge on how they rolled out the process and understand the pros and cons," Gilliam said. "They have gaming like we do, so I want to figure out how those things coexist, and figure out to make it work for Atlantic City."

    Gilliam said he said he's informally spoken to the governor about allowing the seaside resort community to permit sales and consumption under a temporary or pilot program.

    "He was very open to it, although he did not give any commitment," Gilliam said.

    What does N.J. say to legal recreational weed? New poll has answers

    In a Jan. 17 letter, Nevada Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson outlined an itinerary would include a visit to a cannabis production facility, a retail shop, and meetings with state and Las Vegas officials to discuss "developing regulations and a taxation scheme, business investment, licensing, public safety considerations and marijuana-related criminal justice reforms.

    The trip would run from Wednesday night to Friday late afternoon, the letter said.

    Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, the prime sponsor of the marijuana legalization bill who organized two trips to witness Colorado's legal program, said he expects to attend the trip. He wishes more of his colleagues were going.

    "It's a fact-finding mission from my perspective and another opportunity for legislators to learn," Scutari said. 

    A significant number of lawmakers from both parties have expressed discomfort or disapproval for legalizing marijuana.

    Garden State lawmakers expected to take the trip include Scutari; Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly D-Passaic; Assemblywoman Annette Quijano D-Union; and Sen. Declan Scanlon R-Monmouth or his representative, organizers said.

    Business attendees include Andrew Zaleski, CEO of Breakwater Treatment and Wellness medical marijuana dispensary in Cranbury; Paul Josephson, attorney for Cannabis Industry Association; Princeton psychiatrist and founder of Doctors for Cannabis David Nathan; and Hugh O'Beirne and Dara Servis, the association's president and executive director, according to the trip's itinerary.

    Susan K. Livio may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find Politics on Facebook.


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    Musicians will be gathering at Court Tavern in New Brunswick to honor the late Pat DiNizio Watch video

    Two founding members of the Smithereens will perform Saturday at a concert in New Brunswick honoring Pat DiNizio, the rock band's lead singer who died in December.

    Dennis Diken and Jim Babjak, who started the Smithereens in 1980 with DiNizio and former member Mike Mesaros, are scheduled to appear along with other musicians at Court Tavern.

    It is the same venue where the Smithereens honed their skills in the years leading up to their late-1980s/early 1990s heyday with hits such as "Blood and Roses," "Behind the Wall of Sleep," "A Girl Like You," and "Only a Memory."

    Diken, the band's drummer, said he "couldn't begin to count" the number of their performances at Count Tavern, which opened the year after the Smithereens were formed.

    "It was almost like we had a residency there in the early 1980s," Diken said.

    More than three decades after the release of the first full-length Smithereens album, "Especially for You," DiNizio, Diken and Babjak -- joined by new member Severo Jornacion -- were continuing to tour.

    Their last performance was Sept. 16, at the historic, 92-year-old Arcada Theatre just outside Chicago.

    DiNizio died three months later, at age 62. 

    "It's been so heartening, really, since Pat's passing, to hear all the expressions of love and support and how much people miss Pat," Diken said.

    "It's a beautiful thing. It's a sad time, but at the same time, there's so much love in this room called life," added Diken, who lives in Wood-Ridge and is a DJ at WFMU in Jersey City.

    Saturday's concert starts at 8 p.m.

    The Grip Weeds, a Highland Park-based rock band that has worked closely with the Smithereens, is a headliner.

    Kurt Reil, a singer/drummer with the Grip Weeds, said DiNizio and the Smithereens were a mentor to his band, which formed in 1988.

    "This is about a tribute to him, and a celebration of him, but also of the band," Reil said, adding that the Smithereens "made their mark on popular music history."

    The Smithereens had their last hit single in 1992, but during the band's peak years only Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi were bigger N.J. rock stars.

    "They had something unique. Something different and really good that absolutely lasted," Reil said of the Smithereens.

    Diken, Babjak and Mesaros, who left the Smithereens about a decade ago, all graduated from Carteret High School in 1975, while DiNizio grew up about 10 miles away in Scotch Plains.

    "We were able to instill a basic, everyman feel in our music. I think that's what we had in our lives growing up," Diken said.

    Diken and Babjak recently endorsed efforts to name a street for DiNizio in Scotch Plains, where he lived in a 19th century farmhouse and fronted a local band dubbed the Scotch Plainsmen. 

    Diken said that DiNizio, at various times, lived in New Orleans, Chicago, Los Angeles and upstate New York, but never lost his connection to his hometown.

    "He's been all over the place. I know that he always had an affection for Scotch Plains and ultimately returned there," Diken said.

    The tribute concert at Count Tavern is the second in three weeks.

    On Jan. 13, the band joined Dave Davies of the Kinks, Steven Van Zandt of E Street Band and "Sopranos" fame, and others at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank. 

    Asked about the future of the Smithereens, Diken said, "People really expressed to us they want the music to continue."

    Rob Jennings may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RobJenningsNJ. Find on Facebook   

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    Famous for playing Dustin in "Stranger Things," Gaten Matarazzo put on a stellar show with his band, Work In Progress, at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville.

    Gaten Matarazzo didn't need to sing a single word to send the Starland Ballroom crowd into hysterics. Fans shrieked and screeched nearly every time the "Stranger Things" star and Work In Progress front man got remotely close to the stage on Saturday night before his set.

    When the 15-year-old Egg Harbor native did finally take the mic, the hundreds of tweens and teens in attendance lost their collective minds. And the actor known for playing demogorgon-battling Dustin in the hit Netflix sci-fi show was just as excited to see them at the Sayreville venue, a little more than a month after selling out The Stone Pony.

    "This is our biggest gig yet," Matarazzo told the crowd in between songs. "We're going to remember this one for the rest of our lives."

    Matarazzo ran around the stage with abandon, dancing and bobbing his signature moptop when he wasn't singing. He refreshingly didn't have the air of a professional musician, but rather a kid singing his favorite songs, jamming out with his friends and soaking in the moment. The band's 22-song set lasted more than 90 minutes and consisted of a slew of contemporary rock covers. Even when Matarazzo was off stage, he was interacting with fans and jamming out to the music.

    While the crowd was obviously there to see their favorite Hawkins, Indiana resident, this wasn't just the Dustin Henderson show. Matarazzo's backing band was strong, and nearly every member of the six-part rock cover band sang at one point or another, with their front man going out of his way to make sure the crowd showed them love.

    That included Matarazzo's sister, Sabrina, who shined taking the lead on vocals for Paramore's "Misery Business" and "Behind These Hazel Eyes" by Kelly Clarkson. Matarazzo's little brother, Carmen, was on the drums, and sang for the first time in a concert setting during the acoustic portion of the set.

    Matarazzo led Blink-182's "Stay Together For The Kids," and was especially strong on "Reptilia" by The Strokes and Otherside by The Red Hot Chili Peppers, which he called his favorite song by the group. (For the record, it came out in 1999, three years before he was born.)

    There's no doubt that the kid can sing, but acting will always be Matarazzo's calling card. He flashed the same precocious charm that has made him a breakout star on "Stranger Things." 

    The band got together after a two-song encore and took a bow, paying homage to Matarazzo's acting background.

    "Thank you all so much for coming tonight. It means so much for you to support us like this," Matarazzo said. "This is a night we won't forget, and it's all because of you."

    Jeremy Schneider may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @J_Schneider. Find on Facebook.

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    Where is your team in the power points report?

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    Take a look at the girls basketball power points as of the cutoff date.

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    Pets all over New Jersey wait patiently for adoption.

    Here is this week's collection of some of the dogs and cats in need of adoption in New Jersey.

    We are now accepting dogs and cats to appear in the gallery from nonprofit shelters and rescues throughout New Jersey.

    If a group wishes to participate in this weekly gallery on, please contact Greg Hatala at or call 973-836-4922.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    The group was dismissed from the fall class on Jan. 16 for violating the academy's rules. They were re-enrolled in the next class a week later.

    The four cadets who were kicked out of the police academy in Cape May for sneaking alcohol onto the barracks the day before graduation last month were re-enrolled in the training facility a week later, officials confirmed. 

    Guy Cross of the Perth Amboy Police Department, William Omrod of Lower Township's Police Department, Anthony Payne of the Wildwood Police Department and Kirk Rohrer of Sea Isle City's Police Department started their second stint at the Cape May County Police Academy on Jan. 23 and are still enrolled in the program, county counsel Jeff Lindsay said in a statement.  

    The group was dismissed from the fall class on Jan. 16 for violating the academy's rules during the five-month program, which requires recruits to live at the Cape May County Court House for the entirety of their training, Lindsay said.

    The county previously would not release details of the incident but provided a statement Friday after records requests seeking class rosters. Lindsay said in the statement the four were removed for bringing "alcoholic beverages on to the academy grounds."

    Academy officials reported the incident that was referred back to the cadet agency for any discipline, according to Lindsay. The departments chose to re-enroll the cadets into the next available class, he said.

    Any other cadets, now sworn police officers, who were caught drinking would be disciplined internally by their sending agencies, Lindsay previously said. It was unclear how many recruits in the fall class were involved. 

    The academy, which is overseen by the Cape May County Freeholders, trains police, rescue personnel and 911 dispatchers from around the state and charges agencies $2,500 for each cadet for the Basic Police Officer class. Cape May County agencies can send their recruits free of charge since they provide instructors.

    "The Academy is not, nor should it be, involved in determining the appropriate corrective action that an employer takes toward a recruit who has been dismissed by the Academy," Lindsay said in an emailed statement. "Throughout this incident, the Academy acted diligently and consistent with its rules, regulations and applicable Police Training Commission Guidelines."

    Calls to police officials in Wildwood, Sea Isle City and Lower Township were not returned. 

    A Perth Amboy spokeswoman referred NJ Advance Media to the city's previous statement but did not answer questions about Guy's re-enrollment.

    Payne was hired by the Wildwood in 2013 is paid $31,368 per year, records show. Omrod and Rohrer make about $26,000 per year, according to salary records from their respective municipalities.  Cross has an annual salary of $35,433, according to records. 

    The academy graduated 58 officers from 18 separate agencies in at least four counties on Jan. 17.

    Craig McCarthy may be reached at 732-372-2078 or at Follow him on Twitter @createcraig and on Facebook here. Find on Facebook.

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    Check out the best potential matchups of each rounD.

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    The two-week-old girl recovered completely from the ordeal, authorities said

    Trooper Robert Meyer was asleep at his Piscataway home Saturday afternoon when a desperate neighbor came to his door.  

    Her granddaughter, just two weeks old, was having trouble breathing, and the woman noticed Meyer's State Police patrol car parked outside.

    27625091_1550780454976491_5868677451683716766_o.jpgTrooper Robert Meyer and a two-week-old baby he aided when she began choking over the weekend. (New Jersey State Police)  

    Meyer, who had worked a shift the night before, rushed out of his house without even pausing to put on a pair of shoes, according to an account by the State Police.

    By the time he arrived at the woman's house about four doors down, the little girl had already turned blue.

    The woman handed him a bulb syringe, which Meyer used to clear the infant's airway. The child had been choking on her own mucus, authorities said.

    Shortly afterwards, Piscataway police and EMTs arrived at the home and took her to the hospital, where she was treated and later released.

    The baby is expected to be fine.

    Paul Milo may be reached at Follow him on Twitter@PaulMilo2. Find on Facebook.  



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    According to its Trulia listing, the taxes are estimated at about $26,815.

    In this week's "On the market" property, we feature a home in Cranbury with more than 5,700 square feet of living space.

    The home is listed for $1,695,000. According to its Trulia listing, the taxes are estimated at about $26,815.

    The home features four bedrooms, three full bathrooms and one partial bath.

    The median sale price for homes in the area is $385,000.

    Spencer Kent may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SpencerMKent. Find the Find on Facebook.

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    Where does your favorite private school land in the latest rankings? Click here to see the best of the best when it comes to private school sports programs in the state.

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    This year's Signing Day is Feb. 7, but who are the best recruits since 2003?

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    The decision allows the three Indonesian men seeking sanctuary in a Highland Park church to go home.

    For the first time since Oct. 9, Arthur Jemmy set foot outside the Reformed Church of Highland Park.

    Jemmy had been seeking sanctuary in the church with Harry Pangemanan and Yohanes Tasik, three undocumented Indonesian Christian immigrants who were able to go home this weekend after a federal judge halted temporarily their deportation.

    U.S. District Judge Esther Salas issued the temporary restraining order Friday after reviewing a class action lawsuit filed by the ACLU of NJ.

    It stops Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials from deporting Indonesian Christian immigrants who were seeking asylum, and Salas could grant them a second chance to apply.

    "It is a relief. It's like all the heavy problems are lifted off my shoulders," Jemmy said.

    He arrived in the U.S. on a tourist visa in 2000, fleeing religious persecution. He overstayed his visa, but self reported to ICE following 9/11, receiving a stay of removal. he applied for asylum, but it was denied multiple times. 

    Jemmy began seeking sanctuary after failing to report to ICE in September, fearing deportation as friends were detained during their check-ins.

    Meet the immigrants taking sanctuary in a N.J. church amid an ICE storm

    Tasik came to the church in early January, and Pangemanan joined on Jan. 25 after ICE officials attempted to arrest him while getting ready to leave his house to drive his oldest daughter to school. Two other Indonesian men, Roby Sanger and Gunawan Liem, were arrested that day and are still detained in Essex County Detention Center. 

    Gov. Phil Murphy rushed to the church, which has been housing immigrants for years, to meet with the individuals seeking sanctuary on Jan. 25.

    The ruling will also benefit the other Indonesian families in New Jersey, especially their children, Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale said.


    "We as a community have prepared for the worst even while pushing endlessly to keep families together," Kaper-Dale said. "For a moment there's a reprieve and these kids need a reprieve." 

    The next step for the Indonesian Christian community will be to file motions to reopen for each case, Kaper-Dale said. 

    "What we need right now is a tremendous outpouring of support from law firms in New Jersey," he said. "Right now we want to have lawyers lined up so those motions are ready to go."

    For the next five weeks until the judge delivers another ruling, the men cannot be deported, but still can be detained by ICE. Kaper-Dale said he doesn't believe that ICE would go after the Indonesian community after all the public support. 

    "I believe ICE would want to act in such a way they don't further destroy public trust," Kaper-Dale said Tuesday. "If they were to put them into detention right now, that would be a serious blow to public trust."

    Although the men are in a limbo when it comes to their legal status, they are enjoying the time they can spend outside of the church. 

    Tasik returned to his Avenel home but said he is still being cautious when it comes to going outside since he's still nervous of what the judge could rule.

    On his first day out, Jemmy said he went to the mall to take a stroll.

    "I finally get to do something new," he said. "Finally I feel I am back in the real world."

    Sophie Nieto-Munoz may be reached at Follow her at @snietomunoz. Find on Facebook.

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    Highlights from opening night of the 2018 wrestling sectional championships

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    The stores will offer deep discounts on brand names across all product categories.

    Discounts of up to 30 percent off began Wednesday at all closing Toys "R" Us and Babies "R" Us stores, including 11 in New Jersey, according to a spokesman for a consortium handling the closing sales.

    Store furniture and fixtures will also be available for sale, the spokesman said.

    Closing locations will continue to honor customer programs including gift cards, Endless Earnings and credit card specials.

    The closing sales will be operated by a consortium consisting of Gordon Brothers, Hilco Merchant Resources, Tiger Capital Group and Great American Group.

    "The discounts and promotions that will be offered at closing locations starting today will be unique to these stores," the spokesman said.

    11 companies that are laying off up to 2,000 N.J. workers by April

    As part of its bankruptcy reorganization plan, the Wayne-based retailer has said it plans to close about a third of its 880 stores.

    Twelve stores were slated to close in New Jersey. However, a store in Eatontown was not included in a revised store closure list released on Tuesday.

    The stores slated to close in 2018 are:

    • Bridgewater
    • Burlington
    • Cherry Hill
    • East Hanover
    • Elizabeth (Kid's World)
    • Flanders
    • North Brunswick
    • Paramus
    • Philipsburg
    • Union
    • Wayne

    "Not only will the sale provide loyal customers from coast to coast the opportunity to purchase their favorite products at significantly lower prices, it will also include new merchandise at even deeper discounts," the consortium spokesman said.

    "Due to these substantial reductions, we encourage consumers to shop early to take advantage of the best selection of products available while supplies last."

    A judge in Virginia reportedly approved a bankruptcy plan that permits struggling retailer Toys R Us to hold going-out-of business sales.

    "The reinvention of our brands requires that we make tough decisions about our priorities and focus," company CEO Dave Brandon stated in a message on the company website last month, when he also announced the going-out-of-business sales.

    Toys R Us is another bricks-and-mortar retailer struggling to survive in an era of online shopping. A year ago, the company laid off about 15 percent of the staff at its Wayne headquarters.

    The closing sales will be operated by a consortium consisting of Gordon Brothers, Hilco Merchant Resources, Tiger Capital Group and Great American Group.

    Some shoppers who arrived at the North Brunswick Babie "R" Us shortly after the 10 a.m. opening said they are hoping the sales get better.

    "I'm taking advantage of these sales since 30 percent off is pretty good, but they'll get better as they dwindle down," said Rachel Anderson of South River.

    Melanie Delaluz, also of South River, came to shop with her pregnant sister to buy towels and baby clothes.

    "Usually we go to the East Brunswick store but we came for the sales," Delaluz said. "The sales aren't that good yet but they'll probably get better."

    (Staff writer Sophie Nieto-Munoz contributed to this report)

    Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find on Facebook.


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    Who are the latest additions?

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    Viva la familia!

    Everyone likes to recall fond family memories. And, what's even better is when a family moment remains vivid because it has been captured on film.

    But, sometimes all we can depend on is our memory because the photographs we took failed to come out. Or, we didn't have a camera on hand to make sure the memory could be placed in a frame.

    Untitled-88.jpgMy family shot daguerreotypes 

    The current high quality of digital cameras in smart phones makes it, pardon the pun, a snap to shoot a great family photo at an event or gathering. And, of course, there's the biggest benefit of all - knowing immediately whether you should take another one.

    I was recently discussing with my Mom how many one-time-only group family photos were never captured over the years because someone forgot to wind the film or buy flashbulbs. With a film camera, you only knew if the shot came out after the time it took for developing; how many once-in-a-lifetime family photos ended up as totally dark or washed-out prints?

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    Someone will likely mention Polaroid here. Okay, yes, you could see the result of your shot in a minute with a Polaroid instant camera ... a camera that had a lens with limited capability to include more than a handful of people in the photo. Polaroid group shots usually boiled down to faces the size of dots.

    But all family photos weren't missed or messed up. No matter where and when photos like these were taken, they all preserve the importance of family for posterity.

    Here's a gallery of vintage family photos from New Jersey, and some links to other family galleries you might enjoy.

    Vintage photos of families in N.J.

    Vintage photos of fathers, sons and daughters in NJ

    Vintage photos of mothers and their children in NJ

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    Among them are child-sex predators, killers - and even an alleged crime boss.

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    Does an angry voice from the pulpit mean anything in a fight against ICE? In the sanctuary of a New Jersey church, a pastor's battle over immigration rages. Watch video

    Ground Zero in the nation's increasingly acrimonious debate over illegal immigration might be the Reformed Church of Highland Park.

    That's where Rev. Seth Kaper-Dale, the New Jersey church's blunt-speaking pastor, has declared his house of worship a sanctuary

    The church last month opened its doors once again to protect three Indonesian Christians who hurriedly moved in after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested two other men while they were dropping their daughters off for school nearby.

    Gov. Phil Murphy quickly showed up at the church to voice his support in the wake of the unexpected enforcement action. And Attorney General Gurbir Grewal questioned whether the Department of Homeland Security had violated a longstanding prohibition on enforcement actions at "sensitive locations" by arresting fathers who "were simply ensuring that their children arrived at school safely."

    The standoff at the church lasted less than two weeks.

    Last week, a last-ditch effort by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey to halt the deportations of the Indonesians led to the granting by a federal judge of a temporary restraining order, pending a hearing on whether the court had jurisdiction in the matter.

    The three men who sought sanctuary left.

    But since the arrests, Kaper-Dale has held community events, repeatedly has spoken out against ICE, and continues to focus attention on the plight of immigrants facing deportation. 

    "Over time I have learned about messaging. I know that our narrative is part of a larger narrative that is playing out," he said. "And I choose to carefully express things in ways that can connect to the larger, without losing the value of the particular."

    Fighting ICE

    A graduate of the Princeton Theological Seminary, Kaper-Dale (pronouced COPPER-Dale) appears comfortable in the public eye.

    The 42-year-old minister, who ran for governor last year as the Green Party candidate, has been fielding dozens of calls from reporters and acknowledges an influx of contributions in support of his work since the arrests. He has long been seen as an outspoken, media savvy activist, albeit one who is sometimes quick to shoot from the hip.

    "I have become media savvy," he readily acknowledged. "But pretty much what that means is 'don't be afraid of anything.'  I don't worry about what comes out of my mouth or the 'clean up' that might be necessary.  I trust my gut, and I know when to back off, ask forgiveness and say 'my bad.'"

    After the two Indonesians were first detained, he accused ICE of breaking into their homes after learning the properties had been vandalized--a charge that ICE officials have vehemently denied. When he learned that passports had been stolen as well, he wanted to hold a press conference.

    ICE reacted strongly to his assertions.

    "To suggest that ICE law enforcement officers were involved in such an incident is patently false. ICE law enforcement officers carry out their sworn duties daily with the utmost professionalism, in accordance with their training," officials said in a statement. "To suggest that they would cause intentional harm to property is irresponsible and spreads undue fear in the community which this individual claims to support."

    Pressed later, Kaper-Dale made no apologies and doubled-down on his claims.

    "ICE went through there without a warrant. Without a doubt. Or they got someone else to do the dirty work for them," he asserted.

    The pastor, noting the growing anger and vitriol over the country's immigration debate, said some have asked him if he is obstructing justice by his activism.

    "I say I'm obstructing injustice," he responded during an interview in the church chapel, sitting in a pew framed by the sanctuary's arched stained glass windows. "That is a centerpiece of Christianity. And it is a centerpiece of the Hebrew prophets. Obstructing injustice is the way of God."

    Playing ball

    Kaper-Dale did not grow up intending to become a rabble-rouser and had no thoughts of the ministry.

    Born in Vermont, Seth Dale was raised in the town of Hartland, the son of a social worker and a teacher.

    "Seth has always been passionate about the underdog," said his father, Steve Dale, who still lives with his wife Wendy in Montpelier. "He had a driving force to help people in need."

    The minister said his dream had actually been to play baseball.

    "I wanted to be Roberto Clemente. That's who I wanted to be," Kaper-Dale reflected. "He was dead before I was born, but my parents were die-hard Pittsburgh Pirate fans and I was brought up on the stories of his humanitarian actions while being a player."

    It was not meant to be. He played ball through high school, but when he went away to college in Michigan and showed up for tryouts, he found himself competing against a 6-foot, 7-inch backup first baseman. He decided to study journalism, became a Mets fan, and met his future wife, Stephanie Kaper--now co-pastor with her husband of the Reformed Church of Highland Park.

    They married at 21, joined their last names, and went to Ecuador to live for a year in a children's home before returning to attend seminary.

    After graduation, there were internships in Brooklyn, and the clergy couple found their way to Highland Park in 2001. That's where Kaper-Dale first connected with the Indonesian refugee community.

    "When we came to this church there was a small little Indonesian church worshiping at night on Sunday nights," he recalled. "We would hear these beautiful songs that we couldn't understand. Sometimes we would know the tunes. It was still Amazing Grace. It just was in Indonesian. So we started to connect with the people a little bit."

    Most had fled to the United States in the midst of chaos following the collapse of the Suharto regime in 1998 that saw a bloody wave of violence against Christians in the Muslim-dominated nation, and virtually all were here on overstayed tourist visas, Kaper-Dale said.

    One of them was Arthur Jemmy of Edison, who was among those who sought sanctuary inside Kaper-Dale's church last month after the arrests by ICE.

    Jemmy, 42, said he left Indonesia at the age of 27 after a group of men armed with machetes entered his church in Central Sulawesi and confronted the pastor in the middle of a service.

    "He told everyone 'stay calm,'" said Jemmy, recalling the words of the pastor."He walked down to the aisle. When he approached them, before he could say anything, his head was already on the floor. They chopped his head off."

    He said he ran out of the church with his parents, who sent him to Jakarta, and then to the United States.

    "Christians in Indonesia have to play hide and seek," Jemmy said.

    Immigration advocates say those who came here could have applied for asylum, but only had a year to apply. Kaper-Dale said their legal problems began after the 9/11 terror attacks, when the U.S. government created a registration program for non-citizen men from predominantly Muslim nations. The Indonesian Christian men who reported as required soon were targeted by immigration authorities because they had not applied for asylum within the one-year time limit.

    It all came into focus for Kaper-Dale in May 2006, when federal immigration agents arrested dozens of undocumented Indonesian immigrants in pre-dawn raids across Middlesex County, as part of a nationwide crackdown on foreigners ordered deported who had not left the country.

    Kaper-Dale said he remembered the headline about the arrests of more than 30 fugitives.

    "And I thought no. Actually, the feds just arrested 35 dads, many of whom played in the sandbox with me and my baby just two nights earlier," he said. "The cruelty of politically motivated raids by ICE against fathers of little children never left me. From that moment on I've been fighting viciously."

    Protestant pastor and activistKaper-Dale in the church sanctuary, reflecting on the country's changing immigration policy. (Ed Murray | NJ Advance Media for

    In town, Highland Park Mayor Gayle Brill Mittler has known Kaper-Dale since he arrived in the small Middlesex County town, just over the Raritan River from New Brunswick.

    "I think Seth is a wonderful advocate for social justice," she said. "I'm glad he's a member of our community. He has a big heart and he really wants to go to bat for people who don't have a voice."

    She said the focus by ICE on the community has put residents on edge. At the same time, the mayor voiced support for the Indonesians, noting they came here fleeing persecution.

    "They were seeking religious freedom. That's what this country was built on from the day of the pilgrims," she said.

    It is a large congregation. There are 275 adults and 150 children, and about 100 or so 'adherents' that make up the membership, according to Kaper-Dale, who estimated there are  more than 3,000 a week in the buidling that also doubles as a cafe that caters to refugee and asylum seekers.

    Despite Kaper-Dale's efforts, though, most of the Indonesians who have caught up in the federal dragnets--even before the enhanced enforcement efforts of the current administration--have in the end lost their fight to stay here.

    Four other Indonesian Christian immigrants were deported from New Jersey in June after losing a decades-long battle to stay in the U.S. over fears of what would happen if they returned to the homes they fled.

    Still, Kaper-Dale said ICE had once been willing to exercise discretion in the past, and was less inclined to seek detention for those never charged with a crime.

    Not only has that changed under what officials have said are new rules of engagement, the pastor said his relationship with ICE has changed as well.

    "I've been attempting to speak with Washington and to speak with Newark about the Indonesians--I can show you email trails," he complained. "There's been a refusal to discuss.

    ICE officials defended the recent enforcement action.

    "Our immigration system provides extensive legal process for aliens who have violated our laws, and ICE believes that these individuals have already availed themselves of this process and that the removal orders they received as part of that process should be executed," said spokesman Emilio Dabul.

    They also denied that there has been no communication with the minister.

    "Rev. Kaper-Dale has had numerous conversations with ICE over the last few months, including this year," said Dabul.

    Sparking outcry

    Immigration advocates say there is no double that Kaper-Dale has an impact on the immigration debate here in New Jersey.

    "I think it's very important to shine a light on what's happening right now with ICE," said Nicole Miller, legal Services director of the American Friends Service Committee's immigrant rights program in Newark. "As people grow more and more aware of what is happening, it could change the discourse in this country."

    Miller said Kaper-Dale's intervention has led ICE to back off in the past, and he has gotten the attention of elected officials.

    "He's very media savvy," she observed.

    That can be a good and bad thing, some advocates say.

    Catherine Weiss of Lowenstein Sandler, who oversees the firm's pro bono work, said there are costs and benefits in focusing attention on immigration enforcement cases, pointing to the plight of Ravi Ragbir, a high-profile New York immigration rights activist who was ordered released by a federal judge after ICE prepared to deport him. Weiss said Ragbir had already been a public target and publicizing his plight only rallied a movement behind him.

    "It might incite ICE to put him on an airplane in two hours, it also helped to get him back," she said.

    The question, she said, is always what client wants. "It's not my choice. I'm not the one who bears the consequences of that choice," she said.

    Joyce Phipps, an immigration lawyer from Bound Brook and director of Casa de Esperanza, a nonprofit group serving immigrants and refugees, credited Kaper-Dale with raising awareness of the illegal immigration debate. She recounted what she saw at a legal workshop last week on asylum, where a number of lawyers who had heard about what was going on in the church in Highland Park had approached her.

    "People who had never done immigration law wanted to do something. And it all came out of the Indonesians," she said. "I think Seth's actions have spoken to people of faith who are particularly concerned about our nation's moral direction and see the issues of faith as those of social justice."

    Since the signing of the restraining order, the Indonesians who took refuge in the church have left. A hearing in federal court is scheduled for next month, but the other men who were arrested remain in detention.

    Meanwhile, Kaper-Dale said he is far from alone in his fight.

    In particular, he credits his wife and co-pastor, Stephanie Kaper-Dale, who he said in many ways is a major reason why he can get involved so deeply in issues of social justice as they share the work of their church.

    "I am a cheerleader, trouble-shooter, fundraiser and dreamer.  I am surrounded by an ever-increasing number of skilled leaders who come to the church and our web of non-profits with gifts and skills that add beauty to this place," he said. "Alone I am nothing."

    Ted Sherman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TedShermanSL. Facebook: @TedSherman.reporter. Find on Facebook.

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