North Carolina

A Church's Dramatic Attempt to Stop a Deportation Reflects the Crackdown on Sanctuaries

CityWell United Methodist Church sheltered an undocumented immigrant until they said he was lured to an immigration office under false pretenses.


|||Screenshot via Facebook/Cleve May
Screenshot via Facebook/Cleve May

Members of a North Carolina church were the latest to clash with the federal government over immigration policies. During the holiday weekend, an immigration appointment ended with the arrest of an undocumented immigrant in the church's care as well as the arrest of several members.

CityWell United Methodist Church in Durham sheltered undocumented immigrant Samuel Oliver-Bruno in a former Sunday school classroom for 11 months. The 47-year-old is married to an American citizen and has a 19-year-old son, who is also a citizen. On Friday, Oliver-Bruno had an appointment at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office in Morrisville. Oliver-Bruno was expected to give his fingerprints and discuss a petition to legally delay his upcoming deportation via a deferred action status. Members accompanied Oliver-Bruno to his appointment, fearing entrapment.

Their fears proved correct. After walking in with his son, his attorney, and the church's pastor, plainclothes Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents predictably swooped in to arrest Oliver-Bruno.

The church members moved to surround a van where officials had taken Oliver-Bruno. They chanted, "Let him stay," sang "Amazing Grace," and prayed. The Morrisville Police Department released a statement saying that it arrested 27 people for obstruction after they did not follow "two orders to disperse." (The members were aware that their actions could lead to arrest.) Included among those arrested was Oliver-Bruno's son.

CityWell Pastor Cleve May argued that ICE "exploited" Oliver-Bruno's due process by arresting him while he complied with the legal guidelines to delay his deportation. May also believed that the USCIS meeting, which was legally required for Oliver-Bruno's petition, was a trap.

"It was presented as a legitimate appointment but ICE utilized due process as bait," he told CNN.

North Carolina Congressmen David Price and G.K. Butterfield, both Democrats, released a statement that also said Oliver-Bruno was "entrapped." They have since requested deferred action from deportation on his behalf and are seeking prosecutorial discretion in his case.

CityWell is one of many houses of worship that have stepped up to combat harsh immigration policies. As Reason's Shikha Dalmia reported in February, sanctuary churches have enjoyed a special privilege from ICE when it comes to shielding immigrants. An internal administrative bars government agents from entering "sensitive locations," like places of worship and hospitals, to arrest immigrants. In fact, the deep cultural respect for these places have made them more reliable for immigrants than sanctuary cities. Additionally, ICE agents have even used some of these locations to house asylum seekers when they do not have room.

Despite this decades-long understanding, however, the Trump administration has quietly begun pushing back on sensitive locations. Dalmia's report listed several instances of agents stalking immigrants in order to arrest them once they left their sanctuaries. In one case, ICE agents shadowed parents at a hospital who were seeking care of their 2-month-old infant, who was born in America. Agents even watched the mother as she breastfed. Deportation proceedings soon followed.

The actions taken against Oliver-Bruno can only deter immigrants from complying in good faith with government requirements.

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  1. He was breaking the law. The police have a legal right to pursue him and that means it is okay to lie to him to get him to show himself. Reason would never complain about this tactic were it applied to any other law.

    1. Reason would never complain about this tactic were it applied to any other law.

      Except pot laws. Or food truck laws. Or prostitution. Or laws against selling raw milk. Or laws against passing out info on jury nullification. Or laws against giving the homeless food. Or laws against cutting hair without a license. Or laws against sexting. Or laws against truancy.

      I could go on, but still, good point!

    2. it is okay to lie to him to get him

      Only because the SCOTUS says so. Still doesn’t make it right. This is one of those things that sticks in my craw- police should *never* be allowed to lie to us. Something to bring up when police complain about how respect for them is eroding.

  2. After walking in with his son, his attorney, and the church’s pastor, plainclothes Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents predictably swooped in to arrest Oliver-Bruno.

    Tax dollars well spent.

    North Carolina Congressmen David Price and G.K. Butterfield, both Democrats, released a statement that also said Oliver-Bruno was “entrapped.”

    And, of course, there were Republican leaders who decried the federal law enforcement attack on Christian values here, right? RIGHT?

    1. That wasn’t the cheek they were talking about turning.

      1. Christian values says to love our neighbors… EXCEPT if the likes of Samuel Oliver-Bruno is an illegal sub-human, who was born on the wrong side of a border, be it by 5 inches or 5,379 miles.

        Jesus told us, “Love ye neighbor, except if him or her or she or xe, or whatever yer gender-fluid pronoun shall be, was born or hatched on the wrong side of the border.” Lukish the Shemalian 15:square-root-of-negative-nine

        (Please note that square roots of negative numbers are imaginary).

        1. Wait… let me get this straight. Christian Churches are sheltering illegal aliens, including Samuel Oliver-Bruno, from deportation, but you’re slagging Christians for not sheltering illegal aliens like Samuel Oliver-Bruno?

          1. It’s a particle AND a wave at the same time!!! It is NOT just a dessert topping, it is also a hemorrhoid ointment!!!

            It is NOT just an illegal sub-human needing to be punished by GAWD-fearing Christians, it is ALSO a creature with a heartbeat, that deserves a decent life!

            (According to the Grand Theory of the Stuff and Stuff, Stuff is Stuffy…. Except when it is NOT stuffy!)

    2. How is this against Christian values? Where does it say the man was beaten or mistreated?

  3. May also believed that the USCIS meeting, which was legally required for Oliver-Bruno’s petition, was a trap. “It was presented as a legitimate appointment but ICE utilized due process as bait,” he told CNN.

    Unlike all those other police stings.

  4. lured to an immigration office under false pretenses.

    Aren’t they being lured to America under false pretenses?

  5. Any minute now we will hear representatives from God’s Own Party demand a crackdown on ‘sanctuary churches’.

    1. I’m not a party member, but I do support the idea.

      1. I know, right?
        How dare those churches defy anti-discrimination immigration laws!

        1. I know, right?

          The US should let God and his earthly representatives determine US immigration laws. I know the Dems are on-board with a US theocracy.

          Roe V Wade next to fall under our new subservience to God.

          It’s a small price to pay, right?

          1. Here’s a better idea:
            No theocracy, and no secular dictatorship either.
            Get rid of about 99% of immigration law and the problem fixes itself.

            And I wouldn’t be upset if Roe v. Wade were overturned tomorrow, either.

            1. You’re so fucking stupid. You would turn the whole country into a shithole like CA, but on steroids. Goodamn your dumb ass to Hell.

              Too bad your parents didn’t beat you a whole lot more growing up.

  6. What I read is that for 11 months the feds respected the tradition of churches as a sanctuary.

    They then used “due process” to arrest him, outside the church.

    I am unclear on the complaint. He wants due process, except for the part where he gets arrested?

    1. Yes, kinda like black people wanting to sit in the front of buses, or people wanting to NOT be burned or hung as being accused witches… Kinda funny, that thing about bitching up a storm about unjust laws… After all, the law is the law is the law…

  7. This sounds like “there is more to the story” to me.

    1. Fox News, those killjoys, gets specific:

      “Oliver-Bruno pleaded guilty in 2014 to using false documents to try to re-enter the U.S. in Texas after a trip outside the country, according to court documents.”

      Their version is that he needed to bring his sick citizen wife into the U. S. for their superior medical treatment. I imagine that’s the basis of his claim for relief. Sounds sympathetic to me.

      I happen to think of marriage as a human right, even a 9th Amendment right – and I have a problem with making an American citizen (sick or not) choose between living in America or living with her husband.

      But I am a bit annoyed at how the guy’s conviction is buried deep within the story, even on Fox the immigrant-bashing hate-channel.

      1. That American woman knew what she was getting herself into when she had the temerity to fall in love with one of those illegal humans!

        1. I’d say there’s a problem with treating marriage as some kind of civil arrangement which needs government blessing, as opposed to a pre-state institution which the government is required to recognize.

          The latter concept of marriage is difficult to sustain when people are using the government to redefine and update marriage to fit their political hobbyhorses.

          It’s hardly a surprise that the rights of marriage nowadays take a back seat to the demands of the almighty State.

          1. But in all seriousness, I think you are partly right. In terms of liberty, marriage is a special form of the freedom of association – a particularly close association. And like all free associations, a just government is obliged to respect it.

            1. So tell us – what other laws should foreigners married to Americans be allowed to break with impunity?

              1. At a guess, I’d say unconstitutional laws.

                If the government has what they call a “compelling interest” in separating man and wife, eg, keeping a convicted criminal in prison, then go for it.

                This is the problem with treating marriage as a civil relationship whose definition, contours and limits are defined by the state – we get a country where the relationship between man and wife is conditional and breakable, but the relationship between the almighty State and its subjects is unbreakable and sacred.

              2. So tell us – when were you planning on telling us that this crusade against illegal immigration would wind up abridging the rights of *citizens* as well?

              3. Jeffy doesn’t believe in the rule of law.

          2. Even when that terrorist dude out west, who was a citizen, managed to bring his wife here and there was a lot of bitching about lax immigration enforcement, I concluded that since neither party had been convicted at the time, there was nothing wrong with a citizen bringing his wife here, even if they committed horrible crimes later.

            So I guess I’m a bit of an outlier.

        2. Yeah, she did. Do you have a point?

          1. Those citizens that the Trumpists claim so much to be standing up for, their rights don’t seem to matter so much when they dare to associate with those untermenschen illegal humans.

          2. Gotta break a few eggs in order to make an omelet free of illegal humans. Isn’t that right Adolf?

            1. No, just send them home.

      2. “and I have a problem with making an American citizen (sick or not) choose between living in America or living with her husband.”

        That just proves that you’re a librul progtard who has no brain and hates America.

        1. Please observe that I’m still not on board with the prog version of immigrant rights, which doesn’t care for such things as actual ties to America (except the sacred tie of managing to live in America illegally for a given time without being caught).

          1. Oh I know. But at least you have the decency to treat the illegal human with a level of humanity and dignity that most Trumpists won’t.

            1. Just to be fair, I’m looking at the wife’s rights here, since she’s the citizen in the situation – also, notice that this guy was convicted in 2014, and who was president then…ah, it was Obama!

  8. If you read the WaPo article, the man has been living here illegally for 24 years! He got a stay of deportation because his wife was sick, but now she’s better. After more than two decades, how many more stays of deportation should he get? What basis is there for him to be allowed to jump the line and get preferential treatment over people who went through the application process to live here legally?

    1. Oh spare me the “line jumping” bullshit with this guy. If he had applied in the usual manner 24 years ago, he likely would be a citizen already. So he is likely in a WORSE position now because he “jumped the line”. Seems to me, that he has proved by his actions that he is worthy of staying here. His only ‘crime’ is not having the right papers when trying to re-enter the country because of his sick wife. And he’s already paid for that crime. This is the kind of guy who ought to get some form of amnesty. You want to deport him because he crossed the border without the right papers *24 years ago*?

      1. He didn’t apply. Too bad, so sad.

    2. I see it more as a question of the rights of the American spouse. The immigration laws should accommodate the rights of American spouses, not vice versa.

  9. Good news! The Catholic Church says they will shelter all unaccompanied minors, males preferred.

  10. An ICE worker in current circumstances is no better than a drug warrior. No decent person would hold such a job so long as any honorable livelihood were available. Let alone an educated, decent person. We seem to have plenty of lousy people willing to take downscale, authoritarian jobs, though.

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