Plainclothes officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrested a man named Samuel Oliver-Bruno on Friday inside U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices in North Carolina where he was keeping an appointment with immigration officials.
Oliver-Bruno is a native of Mexico who came to the United States on a work permit two decades ago. In 2014, he was arrested attempting to enter the U.S. using a Texas birth certificate he'd purchased in an effort to be with his wife while she underwent heart surgery. While his case was appealed, Oliver-Bruno took sanctuary in CityWell United Methodist Church in Durham, North Carolina.
An aspiring Baptist minister, he participated in services and studied at Duke University's Divinity School while living in the church. However, Oliver-Bruno was eager to leave the building to support his wife and his teenage son, who is a U.S. citizen. "I need to work, do the activities I used to do, to afford medicines for my wife and doctor's appointments," he told CNN.
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Friday's appointment was supposed to be a routine step in that direction, but ICE agents intervened. Supporters from the Methodist church attempted to prevent the arrest, forming a human wall around the ICE vehicle and singing "Amazing Grace." More than two dozen, including clergy, were arrested by local police.
"Mr. Oliver-Bruno is a convicted criminal," ICE said in a statement, "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."
"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," said immigration advocacy group Alerta Migratoria. "Furthermore, ICE is not allowing us to give Samuel his diabetic pills or insulin medication, which is further putting his life in danger."
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