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Gloria Rodriguez
World News

US migrant who stayed in church for a year arrested

by Cara Bentley

Samuel Oliver-Bruno had been living in a guest room at the City Well United Methodist Church for almost a year. 

He is originally from Mexico and came to America in 1994, got married and had a son, but doesn't yet have the correct documents to stay in the US. He'd been living at the church to avoid staff from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Church members had supported him in this, staying overnight and keeping him company. 

The advocacy group Alerta Migratoria NC said Oliver-Bruno left the church on Friday to have fingerprints taken so he could apply to stay in North Carolina with his wife and son.

He was asked to report to a federal office in Morrisville, North Carolina for that appointment to provide a biometrics scan that is required to process his application to remain the US.

Although he went to the office with several members of his church family, he was arrested in the building and dragged outside. His son Daniel was also arrested on suspicion of assaulting an ICE officer. 

In the church's account of what happened, they explain how this arrest is a violation of ICE policy as he was surrounded by his church and churches are deemed 'sensitive locations'.

Sensitive locations are defined as places where children are and: 

  • Places of worship, such as churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples;
  • Religious or civil ceremonies or observances, such as funerals and weddings; and
  • During a public demonstration, such as a march, rally, or parade.

Mr Oliver-Bruno was then taken to a detention centre as supporters tried to crowd the vehicle that was transporting him. 29 people were arrested, including nine members of City Well church. 

The church members were later released, having been charged with misdemeanours but will have to appear in court.

Alerta Migratoria NC say it is likely there never was a meeting and that the letter was bait. 

The City Well church report that: "He has a team of lawyers working on his behalf. Furthermore, ICE agents are pressing charges against Daniel for the alleged assault. Samuel's wife, Julia, is at a safe location and being cared for."

After asking congregants to share the news and tell their congressional representative, they say: "We will look forward to gathering on Sunday for a time of worship and witness, which both expresses our solidarity with Samuel and invites the Spirit to be Samuel's advocate.  Until then, let us move with the Holy Spirit and be present to one another."

He spent 11 months in the Durham church to avoid immigration authorities.

North Carolina representatives Mr Price and Mr Butterfield said they will fight to keep Mr Oliver-Bruno with his family and have received assurances from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that he will remain in the US while his case is adjudicated.

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