For most of the past year, Samuel Oliver-Bruno lived in the basement of a Methodist church in Durham, NC, in order to avoid deportation. Oliver-Bruno left that church last week in order to attend a scheduled meeting with immigration authorities in a nearby town. Instead, he was tackled and arrested by ICE, while over two dozen protesters were violently arrested for attempting to block the van. Last night, ICE confirmed to local media outlets, he was deported back to Mexico.
“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 U.S.,” [ICE spokesperson Bryan] Cox told Raleigh’s News & Observer.
The vicious crime committed by Oliver-Bruno, who was born in Mexico and has a 19-year old U.S. citizen son (who was also tackled while trying to protect his father from our immigration Gestapo), was crossing the border in 2014 in order to be with his wife who had recently undergone heart surgery.
Oliver-Bruno first came to the United States in 1994 to live and work in Greenville, N.C. His wife, Julia, who has lupus, a serious autoimmune disease, gave birth to their son in 1999. They decided to return to Mexico in 2011 because Oliver-Bruno’s father was in poor health, according to his church.
They traveled back across the border illegally in 2013 to seek better medical care for Julia’s lupus after she started coughing up blood, May said. Crossing the border months ahead of Oliver-Bruno, she underwent heart surgery upon her arrival in Greenville. Oliver-Bruno, however, was arrested and convicted of attempting to enter the country with fraudulent documents when he tried to return in 2014, the only blemish on his criminal record.
Durham-area Congressmen G.K. Butterfield and David Price, both Democrats, attempted to intervene on Oliver-Bruno’s behalf. On Monday, Price said that the two had “secured a commitment” from ICE not to deport Oliver-Bruno until his petition for deferring the deportation was heard. That claim was denied, and Price and Butterfield released a blistering statement aimed at the Department of Homeland Security and Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.
We reached out to Price for comment, and were told that he and Butterfield were working on a new joint statement regarding Oliver-Bruno’s departure. We’ll update this story with that statement when we hear back.
As for CityWell, the church where Oliver-Bruno sought sanctuary and lived since December 2017, the reaction was heartbreak. From their statement, which you can read in full on the church’s Facebook page:
Samuel’s family, church community, and supporting neighbors are grieved at Samuel being ripped from his family, church, and community. Many among family and friends are traumatized by the violence employed by ICE in this detainment and deportation operation. Samuel’s family, church, and community supporters are appalled at this flagrant disregard of ICE’s own internal protocols that discourage executing raids in churches and in public assemblies. On November 23, 2018 the public assembly that gathered to surround and support Samuel was a church service in which prayer, scripture, song and proclamation were centrally present. Moreover, Samuel’s supporters are deeply unsettled by the collusion between USCIS and ICE to utilize a supposedly legitimate immigration process as bait for entrapment and ambush. This action undermines our democracy and threatens the credibility of US agencies and government processes. Samuel’s family, church, and supporting community condemn these actions and demand accountability for all immigration and law enforcement agencies that conspired in this operation.
The message from this sent to undocumented people by the federal government and any local police department which works hand in hand with our horrible immigration apparatus: Do not trust us. Ever.
Update, 3:40 p.m. ET: Price and Butterfield have released a joint statement saying they’re “extremely disappointed” in the decision to deport Oliver-Bruno. You can read the full statement below:
It is a sad day for Samuel Oliver-Bruno’s family and our community. So many, including local advocates, neighbors, friends, and people of faith all worked tirelessly on Samuel’s behalf to seek his release. As Durham’s representatives in Congress, we advocated for Samuel’s release personally and persistently at the highest levels of government. In particular, we insisted that top officials in the Trump administration personally address statements from Mrs. Oliver-Bruno’s medical providers regarding her health condition. All of us are extremely disappointed in the Department of Homeland Security’s refusal to use its discretionary authority to do what was right, just, and moral.
We believe the actions taken by ICE and USCIS in Mr. Oliver-Bruno’s apprehension are extremely concerning and deserving of scrutiny. We will continue to seek a full investigation into the actions of both agencies leading up to Mr. Oliver-Bruno’s arrest on November 23, 2018. These actions will undoubtedly have a chilling effect, further driving people into the shadows of our society.
We will continue to speak out and fight against the unjust and cruel immigration policies of the Trump administration that are unnecessarily tearing families apart.”