An undocumented immigrant in North Carolina was arrested Friday along with dozens of protesters after the 47-year-old Mexican national left the protection of the church where he had been living for 11 months.
Samuel Oliver-Bruno went to have fingerprints taken so he could apply to stay in the state with his wife and son when he was detained at a Raleigh-area immigration office, according to the advocacy group Alerta Migratoria NC.
Immigration officials said in a statement that Oliver-Bruno, who had lived in North Carolina for two decades, had no legal basis to be in the country and had exhausted his “extensive” appeals. He had pleaded guilty in 2014 to using false documents to try to re-enter the U.S. in Texas after leaving the country, court documents show.
He apparently knew an arrest was possible after leaving the CityWell United Methodist Church in Durham, where he had been living since late last year. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials avoid making arrests at churches.
“It was presented as a legitimate appointment but ICE utilized due process as bait,” pastor Cleve May told CNN. “So we went to the appointment with him, to offer protection, knowing that ICE could not be trusted. We were thinking we would be in and out in 30 minutes.”
“I was praying for a miracle,” supporter Ismael Ruiz-Millan told CBS 17. “It was heartbreaking, especially seeing his wife and his son so heartbroken [and] so desperate. It was terrible. At that moment, I wanted to do something.”
Dozens of protesters showed up at the federal immigration office in Morrisville in support of Oliver-Bruno following his arrest. The protesters were busted after authorities say they tried to block the van that was carrying Oliver-Bruno.
“Let him stay!” they screamed as they blocked the van, according to CNN. “Let your people go!”
The Morrisville Police Department said the protesters were peaceful, but refused to allow immigration officers to drive away with Oliver-Bruno. A total of 27 protesters were taken into custody.
“We did nothing else but singing and prayers, and singing and prayers, letting them know that we’re in disagreement with what’s going on,” Ernesto Barriguete told the station.
Oliver-Bruno had filed an application with immigration officials to avoid deportation when he was asked to come in for a biometric screening for the application, according to Alerta Migratoria.
His family had “recently faced threats” in his home state of Veracruz, where drug cartels are active, according to supporters.
North Carolina congressmen David Price and G.K. Butterfield called the arrest “callous” and “cruel” and said Oliver-Bruno appeared to have been entrapped by federal officials.