A Church Community In North Carolina Blocked ICE From Taking An Undocumented Father, 27 Of Them Were Arrested
For 11 months Samuel Oliver-Bruno remained in seclusion at the CityWell United Methodist Church in Durham, North Carolina. The basement inside the church was his sanctuary home for almost a year, and the congregation became his family. They all rallied to help the 47-year-old undocumented husband and father remain in the country despite the fact that immigration officials wanted him. This week, things took a dark turn in Oliver-Bruno’s story when reporting for a scheduled meeting with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
On Nov. 23, Samuel Oliver-Bruno was told to meet with immigration officials for a routine appointment in order for them to get his finger prints and to discuss a petition for a delay in his deportation.
Today Samuel Oliver Bruno, acting in full compliance with our immigration laws, went to the USCIS office for a biometrics appointment, which is a required component of the process in which he is requesting a deferred action status on his order for deportation. Lots of us or standing with Samuel as a sign of solidarity, and as witnesses if ICE were to abuse its power an exploit this situation of due process in order to detain Samuel.
Posted by Cleve May on Friday, November 23, 2018
The undocumented father in North Carolina was the victim of a coordinated effort by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that we have seen before. There has been an increase of undocumented people arriving to scheduled appointments on their immigration cases and being apprehended by ICE agents waiting for them.
Supporters of Oliver-Bruno knew the risk, which is why members of the congregation went with him to his meeting to protect him from being detained. In the video above, Oliver-Bruno tells his supporters and family that all they can do is pray and leave it up to God.
When Oliver-Bruno went inside the building, just minutes later, agents dressed in plainclothes arrested him, according to CNN.
In a joint statement Congressman David Price (D-N.C.) and Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) called Oliver-Bruno’s arrest entrapment.
“We are extremely alarmed by Samuel Oliver-Bruno’s abrupt arrest this morning by ICE agents at the USCIS office in Morrisville, N.C. Mr. Oliver-Bruno has lived in the United States for more than two decades and has spent the last year living in sanctuary in Durham,” they said in a press release. “It appears ICE has acted in concert with officials at USCIS, who instructed Mr. Oliver-Bruno to appear at local USCIS offices to discuss his deferred deportation. He was then apprehended by plainclothes ICE agents upon entering the building. At best, Mr. Oliver-Bruno was presented with a catch-22 dilemma; at worst, he was entrapped. It’s clear that while Mr. Oliver-Bruno was attempting to follow the law in pursuit of his legal petition, ICE coordinated with USCIS to target him upon his leaving the CityWell United Methodist Church.
Members of the congregation were prepared to get arrested in their support of Oliver-Bruno and blocked the van from leaving the premises.
“Who’s willing to get arrested if it comes down to that?” Pastor Cleve May asked two dozen members on Friday morning, according to the Washington Post. Without hesitation they motioned they would. “We told the police chief, ‘We understand this is your job, but we need you to understand that as a matter of conviction we cannot move, and you will have to arrest us,'” May recounted to the Post.
Police ended up arresting 27 people.
In regards to the arrests, the Morrisville Police Department released the following statement: “At approximately 9:15 this morning, Morrisville Police Officers responded to the report of a large crowd that had formed to keep Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from leaving with an arrestee. Officers arrived on scene and were able to confirm that ICE agents had made an arrest per a Federal arrest warrant but were not being allowed to leave. Morrisville Police Officers, in effort to de-escalate the situation and negotiate a peaceful resolution, began the process of communicating with identified leaders within the crowd of people.
The crowd, although peaceful, refused to allow the passage of the ICE vehicle. Over the period of 30 minutes, Morrisville officers issued two orders to disperse, or the crowd would be arrested for obstruction. Officers arrested 27 people without incident or injury.
The Morrisville Police Department did not participate in the active arrest of Mr. Samuel Oliver-Bruno. Officers were called to the scene after the initial arrest had been made. The Morrisville Police Department did not have prior knowledge of plans to arrest Mr. Oliver-Bruno.”
Since Oliver-Bruno’s detainment, members of the church and his supporters continue to seek his release.
The picture above shows members of the church praying over Oliver-Bruno’s son, 19-year-old Daniel Oliver-Perez. Daniel is also one of those that was arrested and is now facing “charges of assaulting a government official” as he attempted to hold his dad as they were taking him away, the Post reports.
Over the past few months Oliver-Bruno has become a integral member of the church and its community.
Before he was detained Oliver-Bruno, who’s been living in the U.S. for more than 20 years, said in a video posted on Facebook: “As I continue cooped up, sometimes I feel the need to be free. I need to work, do the activities I used to do, to afford medicines for my wife and doctor’s appointments. I need to work to support her and my son.”
The News & Observer reports that federal agents have agreed to hear his case, though he faces deportation at any moment.