In a must-read column for the Washington Post, Karen Tumulty writes of the exemplary life of Samuel Oliver-Bruno and how he was lured by DHS officials to an appointment not for the purpose of granting him relief but for the purpose of arresting and deporting him.
For the past year, Oliver-Bruno sought refuge at a church in Durham, North Carolina. Leaving sanctuary only for an appointment with USCIS, surrounded by church members and supporters intended to protect him, Oliver-Bruno was detained upon arrival and later deported to Mexico.
Tumulty concludes, “in the case of Samuel Oliver-Bruno, enforcement and justice have been revealed to be two very different things.”
Tumulty’s column is excerpted below and available online here.
For most of the past year, Samuel Oliver-Bruno stayed in the basement of a church in Durham, N.C., taking refuge against a deportation order that would separate him from his seriously ill wife, his son and the quiet life that he had lived in the United States off and on since 1994.
On the day after Thanksgiving, Oliver-Bruno, 47, ventured from his sanctuary at the CityWell United Methodist Church to keep an appointment at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office in nearby Morrisville. He expected to fill out paperwork and leave his fingerprints, so he could move forward on his request for leniency that would allow him to remain in this country legally.
… But when he got there, agents for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) were waiting. They scuffled with Samuel-Bruno, tackling both him and his 19-year-old son to the ground, and put him in a van parked in back. His supporters surrounded the van, and 27 of them were arrested.
By Thursday night, Oliver-Bruno had been deported to Mexico — under an order on which Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen personally signed off.
… Oliver-Bruno has lived an exemplary life since originally coming to this country to do construction work more than 20 years ago. When his father got sick, he returned to Mexico, but his wife’s illness — lupus, a serious autoimmune disease — brought him back across the border in 2014.
That is when he committed the only crime of which he has been convicted. It was one of desperation. He was caught with a forged birth certificate.
… Meanwhile, the family he left behind faces a future that is uncertain — particularly for his son, Daniel Oliver Perez, who finds himself the primary caregiver for his mother, even as he is trying to stay in college.
Before he was deported, Nielsen personally reviewed Oliver-Bruno’s case, including a medical assessment of his wife, Julia Perez Pacheco. Nielsen told Price that the deportation order would stand, according to a spokesman for the congressman.
… Oliver-Bruno’s situation is not all that unusual with the new standards of prosecutorial discretion that Trump has put in place, said his lawyer, Helen Parsonage, who took his case the day he was arrested. “It happens all the time. It’s standard operating procedure.”
All of which is true. But it speaks to the real problem. The law is one question, but how an administration chooses to apply it is another. And in the case of Samuel Oliver-Bruno, enforcement and justice have been revealed to be two very different things.