NEWARK, N.J. — New Jersey’s attorney general wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen Friday expressing concerns over what he called the “deeply upsetting” arrest of two Indonesian parents after they dropped their children at school.

Officers arrested Gunawan Liem and Roby Sanger on Thursday. Attorney General Gurbir Grewal wrote that school areas are exempt from immigration actions under what he called longstanding immigration policy.

“Schools are deemed to be sensitive locations under the policy,” Grewal wrote. “Here, the fact that ICE arrested two parents as they were driving away from their children’s school is deeply upsetting. I am not aware of any exigent or unique circumstances here that would justify such a departure from ICE’s settled policy on sensitive locations.”

The arrests came on the same day another Indonesian national who had recently received an award for helping rebuild hundreds of homes in New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy was targeted.

Harry Pangemanan sought sanctuary in a church in Highland Park, Middlesex County. At a news conference Friday, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy expressed support for Pangemanan and others targeted by immigration officials.

“We have to remind ourselves that they were escaping religious persecution. They’re Christians who came from Indonesia,” Murphy said. “So they didn’t necessarily come here for economic opportunity. They’re coming basically because they’re being marginalized and persecuted. America used to be — and, god willing, will be again — the beacon and have our arms open to folks like that around the world.”

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment Friday. On Thursday, ICE said the actions in New Jersey were routine and weren’t based on religion, ethnicity, gender or race.


Associated Press writer Michael Catalini in Trenton contributed to this story.