A Mexican father who sought refuge from deportation in a North Carolina church for more than 11 months was detained Friday as he attended a scheduled appointment with immigration officials in order to stay in the US with his wife and son.
Samuel Oliver-Bruno, 47, was detained by plain clothes officers at a Raleigh-area immigration office, prompting dozens of supporters to block a law enforcement van with him inside and wind up under arrest themselves.
One of the people taken into custody was the church’s own Pastor Cleve May and another was his 19-year-old son, Daniel Oliver-Perez.
Samuel Oliver-Bruno was detained Friday after hiding out in a church for almost a year
Pastor Cleve May (left was arrested) and Oliver-Bruno’s 19-year-old son, Daniel Oliver-Perez (right) faces charges of assaulting a government official
May from Citywell United Methodist Church said he was protesting ‘because Samuel is my friend’.
‘Because he’s a father. Because he’s a husband. He’s my brother in Christ,’ he said according to EffinghamDailyNews.com.
Oliver-Bruno’s son, Oliver-Perez – a US Citizen – was arrested as part of the group trying to stop his father from being taken away, WTVD reported.
He faces charges of assaulting a government official.
Those arrested will go before a magistrate.
Advocacy group Alerta Migratoria NC said in a statement that Oliver-Bruno went to have fingerprints taken so he could apply to stay in North Carolina with his family who had recently received threats from Veracruz where drug cartels are active.
His situation was highly publicized in a press conference December 13, 2017 when he began living in CityWell United Methodist Church in Durham to avoid immigration officers.
They generally avoid making arrests at churches, schools and hospitals, allowing Oliver-Bruno to remain in the country longer after already spending two decades with out the required legal documents.
27 people were taken into custody Friday after supporting Oliver-Bruno, who sought refuge from deportation at the church for more than 11 months before leaving
Immigration officers took people into custody after they protested sending Oliver-Bruno back to Veracruz, Mexico where his family had recently received threats to their safety
Demonstrators surrounded a government vehicle after Oliver-Bruno, an undocumented Mexican national, was arrested after arriving at an appointment with immigration officials
ICE said Oliver-Bruno – who will go to a detention center – was arrested as part of a ‘targeted enforcement action’. He moved to the US in 1994.
‘Mr Oliver-Bruno is a convicted criminal who has received all appropriate legal process under federal law, has no outstanding appeals, and has no legal basis to remain in the US,’ Bryan Cox, ICE director of communications for the southern region, told ABC News.
Oliver-Bruno pleaded guilty in 2014 to using false documents to try to re-enter the US in El Paso, Texas after a trip abroad, according to court documents. He was returning to be with his wife Julia, who entered the country on a work permit in 1996 and was to undergo open heart surgery.
In June 2016 he was released from ICE custody and a series of appeals began.
Several dozen protesters came to the federal immigration office in hopes of dissuading authorities from arresting Oliver-Bruno.
‘They had tackled him like he was not a human being, just like used brute force to arrest him,’ protester, Ismael Patino, said.
Dave Swanson added: ‘He’s an unbelievable human being that cares for his family.’
The Morrisville Police Department issued a statement saying it was called to the scene because the crowd, though peaceful, refused to allow immigration officers to drive away with Oliver-Bruno.
Samuel Oliver-Bruno appeared after a press conference held at CityWell United Methodist Church in Durham, North Carolina December 13, 2017 when he went into hiding
Oliver-Bruno left the church to go have his fingerprints recorded and knew he had to ‘risk getting detained’ according to Alerta Migratoria
Immigration officers generally avoid making arrests at churches
The department said it tried to de-escalate the situation, but demonstrators ignored two orders to disperse before arrests were made.
Online booking records show 27 demonstrators were arrested at the immigration office on charges including failure to disperse and resisting officers.
Alerta Migratoria said Oliver-Bruno had filed an application with US Citizenship and Immigration Services seeking to avoid deportation.
The group’s statement said he was asked to come in for a biometric screening as part of the application, and he was aware he had to ‘risk getting detained’.
He posted a video Wednesday via their Facebook page asking for the community’s support as he prepare for his 8.45am appointment Friday.
Advocates said Oliver-Bruno’s family had ‘recently faced threats’.
‘If deported, Samuel fears for his life,’ Alerta Migratoria said in a statement. ‘If deported, Samuel will be returned to the state of Veracruz, where his family has recently faced threats and which is a state that is constantly in threat of drug cartels. If deported, ICE will be delivering Samuel to danger and death. Furthermore, ICE is not allowing us to give Samuel his diabetic pills or insulin medication, which is further putting his life in danger.’
‘This is wrong. And, ICE knows it. And, our members of Congress know it,’ activist Viridiana Martinez, added.
Congressman G.K. Butterfield and David Price said in a statement: ‘Samuel’s sudden and inappropriate arrest in the middle of the Thanksgiving season reflects the callous and cruel approach we’ve come to expect from the Trump administration.
‘As Members of Congress representing the Durham community, we will continue to do everything in our power to keep the Oliver-Bruno family together. In a call with us this afternoon, ICE has committed to allow Mr Oliver-Bruno to remain in the US in detention while his case is adjudicated. While this means he will not be immediately deported, we remain committed to fighting for his release.’
USCIS spokesman Pamela Wilson said the agency generally can’t discuss individual applications for deportation deferment.