Undocumented immigrant deported after 11 months in sanctuary church

Undocumented immigrant deported after 11 months in sanctuary church
Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP
Faith leaders and church members surrounded a government vehicle after Samuel Oliver-Bruno was arrested. 

Samuel Oliver-Bruno found sanctuary in a North Carolina church for nearly a year. Authorities detained him last week after he left the building for an appointment with immigration officials. Dozens of his supporters were arrested, too, as they sang “Amazing Grace” and tried to block an ICE van from taking him to a detention center.

Days later, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported the 47-year-old undocumented immigrant to Mexico. His 19-year-old son and wife remain in the United States.

“They are heartbroken. This will permanently alter who they are as a family, or the way they can be together as family,” Rev. Cleve May of CityWell United Methodist Church told CNN on Friday.

Members of the church in Durham are reeling, May said. And when they go back to church on Sunday, Oliver-Bruno’s chair in the fourth row will be left empty as a tribute to him.

“We will worship,” May said, “but we will do so as a grieving family.”

ICE: ‘He had no legal basis to remain in the US’

Oliver-Bruno had lived in North Carolina with his family for more than two decades. Advocates had been appealing to authorities to stop his deportation, arguing that Oliver-Bruno was a devoted community member who needed to remain in the United States to care for his wife, who suffers from lupus and other medical conditions.

Oliver-Bruno was detained a week ago when he went to what he thought was an appointment at a US Citizenship and Immigration Services office to submit biometric data to support his request that authorities defer his deportation.

“Upon entering the USCIS office, filling out registration paperwork and stepping into the processing line, plainclothes ICE officers posing as other immigrants filling out paperwork forcibly detained Samuel,”