They went to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Morrisville, North Carolina, where a man they knew well, undocumented immigrant Samuel Oliver-Bruno, had an ICE appointment. The 47-year-old father of an American son was being sent back to Mexico. He had sought sanctuary in the CityWell United Methodist Church for 11 months. Then, this happened.
Pastor Cleve May told The Washington Post:
‘We don’t really believe that sanctuary is just a building. The sanctuary went with Samuel to this office. We were going to go in this office together.’
Nearly 100 people traveled to an ICE office to protest the deportation of a man who first came to the U.S. in 1994. They began singing in peaceful protest but did stand in front of the arresting ICE van. After a brief two minutes, the crowd abandoned its singing and began screaming. One woman cried:
‘No! They’re arresting him!’
As they sang Amazing Grace, the police led 30 members of the church to jail. Their crime? They gave sanctuary to a Mexican immigrant, Samuel Oliver-Bruno, and tried to protect him from ICE agents in a three-hour standoff.
The protesters told the police that Oliver-Bruno’s wife was stricken with lupus:
‘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.”‘
Daniel Oliver-Perez, his son, is 19-years-old and tried to keep the ICE agents from arresting his father. Now, he faces charges of assaulting a government official.
May said that Oliver-Bruno seeking sanctuary at the church was similar to house arrest. He missed his son’s high school graduation. He could not participate in life’s little events. May said:
‘He became very intimately a part of who we are as a congregation. It was a really beautiful thing in a lot of ways, but also a really tragic thing, It was never far from anyone’s mind, and it was often on our lips, that Samuel was experiencing a very cruel form of house arrest, almost in isolation.’
His wife, Julia Oliver-Bruno’s, illness worsened while they were in Mexico attending his ailing elderly parents. After she began coughing up blood, they knew they had to return to her doctors in Durham. She had heart surgery as soon as she got to North Carolina.
ICE revoked Oliver-Bruno’s reprieve and supervision order a year ago. That was when he took sanctuary in the church.
Spokesperson for ICE, Bryan Cox, said that its authorities agreed that Oliver-Bruno could not remain in the U.S. under supervision any longer:
‘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..’
An assistant ICE field officer shouted into the crowd of protesters:
‘Listen up! The only way this is going to go down is this way: He’s been ordered removed from the United States. That’s it. I know the law, okay? So what we’re going to do now — you’ve got to disperse. Step back!’
A man in the congregation yelled:
‘You have the discretion, sir. You have the power, sir. There’s a higher law, sir.’
A woman shouted:
‘His only crime was wanting to take care of his family!’
Police arrested almost 30 people for obstruction. They were sent to the Wake County Detention Center where Oliver-Bruno was.
Featured image is a screenshot via YouTube.