Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have deported Samuel Oliver-Bruno, a 47-year-old undocumented man who had been living in the basement of a North Carolina church for the last 11 months.
“Many among family and friends are traumatized by the violence employed by ICE in this detainment and deportation operation,” said CityWell United Methodist Church Rev. Cleve May in a statement.
“Samuel’s family, church and community supporters are appalled at the flagrant disregard of ICE’s own internal protocols that discourage executing raids in churches and in public assemblies.”
Oliver-Bruno, a Mexican national, was arrested last Friday at a scheduled meeting with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) where he was set to be fingerprinted as part of his appeals process. Upon his arrival to the office, plain clothes ICE agents detained Oliver-Bruno.
As ThinkProgress previously reported, he had been working construction jobs in order to support his 19-year-old American son Daniel and his wife Julia, who is in the country on a work visa and has lupus, which requires frequent medical care. Julia told Rewire.News that his deportation could potentially have “life-ending” and “life-changing” effects for her health.
“I have horrible headaches and mentally, I don’t know how much longer I can keep carrying all of this pain,” she said. “I don’t know how much longer I can do this.”
Daniel was one of 27 protesters arrested the day ICE detained his father. Witnesses claim an ICE agent provoked Daniel, following him around and preventing him from saying goodbye to his father. This same agent would later accuse Daniel of “assault” upon his arrest.
Just six days after his arrest, Bruno-Oliver was deported to Mexico. Most detained immigrants languish for months in detention centers until they are ultimately deported.
The speed with which ICE carried out Oliver-Bruno’s deportation could potentially indicate the extent to which the agency knew how morally questionable their actions were — and how badly they wanted Oliver-Bruno’s case out of the spotlight.
Throughout his stay at the church and in the days following his arrest, he had the backing of a network of immigration activists, faith leaders, and local politicians supporting the immigrant community. The day of his arrest, dozens of people gathered at CityWell United Methodist Church to pray, sing, and read scripture.
“This is a city for all. We will fight and we will defend everyone,” said Durham City Council member Javiera Caballero.
Oliver-Bruno’s case is emblematic of the U.S. immigration system’s cruelty. ICE cited a 2014 guilty plea for using false documents at the border to enter the country — the only blemish on his criminal record — in classifying Oliver-Bruno as a “criminal.”
ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox insisted in a statement to the News & Observer that Oliver-Bruno was a “convicted criminal who has received all appropriate legal process under federal law” and has no more outstanding appeals.
The agency said Oliver-Bruno’s detention was part of a “targeted enforcement action,” even though he was arrested at a USCIS biometrics appointment — a required step in processing his request for deferred action from immigration authorities.
In other words, ICE entrapped him, as they have thousands of other undocumented immigrants in the country. As reported by the Boston Globe, ICE and USCIS employees arrange for undocumented individuals to appear at routine immigration meetings at government offices, where they are subsequently arrested, and in some cases deported.
The number of non-criminal, undocumented immigrants like Samuel Oliver-Bruno swept up by the federal government has nearly tripled under President Trump. In the first 14 months of the Trump administration, 58,010 undocumented immigrants without criminal convictions were arrested, many of them without warrants.