Undocumented man arrested after leaving sanctuary to meet with immigration officials
The man who was arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Friday as he attempted to keep an immigration appointment in Morrisville has been transported to an immigration detention center in Georgia. Meanwhile, supporters held a rally on his behalf in Raleigh on Monday.
Samuel Oliver-Bruno is being held at the Stewart Detention Center in Georgia, according to ICE’s detainee locator.
ICE agents dressed in civilian clothes arrested Oliver-Bruno on Friday, minutes after he entered the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Morrisville and began to fill out paperwork.
Oliver-Bruno was held at the Wake County Detention Center over the weekend, but then was moved sometime Monday morning, the Rev. William Barber II said during a prayer session in front of the Wake County jail Monday morning.
Oliver-Bruno, originally from Mexico, lived at CityWell Methodist Church in Durham for almost a year to be out of ICE’s reach. Churches, hospitals and schools are considered “sensitive locations” by the agency, where it does not make arrests or do any immigration enforcement, based on a self-imposed policy.
Worship at the jail
Barber, CityWell Pastor Cleve May and other supporters of Oliver-Bruno gathered under a gray sky in front of the Wake County jail Monday to pray for Oliver-Bruno. Oliver-Bruno’s wife, Julia Perez Pacheco, stood crying next to her son, Daniel Oliver Perez, as Barber and other faith leaders prayed for her husband. A woman stood on Perez Pacheco’s right interpreting the prayers in Spanish.
Barber described Oliver-Bruno’s arrest as “evil.”
“This is America in the 21st century. Immigrants should be welcomed, not treated like Native Americans were treated during the forcing of Native Americans on reservations,” Barber said.
“That’s what they did then. They would snatch them up. Our brothers and sisters from Mexico should not be treated like black people were treated during slavery by the slave patrol, when they would snatch them up!”
Perez Pacheco and her son offered communion to those who surrounded them as the crowd sang worship songs. Perez Pacheco and Oliver Perez declined to be interviewed Monday.
Arrest on Friday
A crowd gathered at the USCIS parking lot Friday before Oliver-Bruno entered the building. May, who had been offering CityWell church to Oliver-Bruno as a place to live, told the crowd they were asking the government to honor Oliver-Bruno’s attempt to follow the process.
“Your presence here is a very helpful thing in demonstrating the community support and the fact that if any violation of this due process were to occur it will not go unwitnessed and it will not go before the community crying out for justice,” May said to the crowd.
Oliver-Bruno, Oliver Perez, his legal team and May all entered the building together. Through a glass door, supporters and reporters standing outside the front of the building saw ICE agents, Oliver-Bruno and Oliver Perez scuffle. ICE agents eventually arrested Oliver-Bruno and escorted him through the back of the building.
The crowd ran to the back of the building, where a van was parked with Oliver-Bruno inside. The crowd pleaded with the ICE agents to not take him away. A chain of people surrounded the van for about two hours, until Morrisville police arrested those who failed to disperse.
Wake County deputies arrested Oliver Perez and charged him with assault on a government officer.
In all, 27 people were arrested and loaded into vans to be taken to the Wake County Detention Center.
ICE described the arrest as a “targeted enforcement action.” They said Oliver-Bruno has no “outstanding appeals and has no legal basis to remain in the U.S,” according to a statement provided by ICE spokesman Bryan Cox.
USCIS didn’t comment on Oliver-Bruno’s case, but said the agency does not make appointments for people who do not have a “pending immigration benefit request.”
Cox said ICE knew Oliver-Bruno would be at the appointment because “his supporters publicly announced it days in advance.” There were multiple posts on social media where the time and place of the appointment were accessible days before, including Alerta Migratoria’s and CityWell’s Facebook pages.
Oliver-Bruno crossed the border in 1994 to live in Greenville, N.C. His wife followed him two years later with a work permit.
It’s unclear when Oliver-Bruno returned to Mexico, but in May 2014, he tried to cross the border into the United States again to be with his wife, who was undergoing open heart surgery.
At that time, Border Patrol arrested him because he attempted to enter the country using fraudulent documents. He pleaded guilty to illegally entering the country with false documents later that month, federal court documents show.
Oliver-Bruno was released from custody in June 2014 and was subject to removal. But the government granted him a variety of appeals and acts of discretion until last year, when ICE informed Oliver-Bruno it would stop doing so, Cox said.
Oliver-Bruno moved into the church to buy more time.