Immigration and Customs Enforcement has agreed not to deport a man ambushed at an ICE appointment Friday until an appeal is heard.

Samuel Oliver-Bruno had been living at CityWell United Methodist Church in Durham for the past eleven months, since ICE ordered him to leave the country. Historically, ICE has not carried out enforcement actions at so-called sensitive locations such as churches, schools, and hospitals.

On Friday morning, he went to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Morrisville for a biometric appointment. There, he was tackled and taken into custody. More than two dozen people, including CityWell’s pastor, were arrested after forming a human barrier around the van that ultimately drove him to the Wake County Detention Center, where supporters gathered this morning for a worship service and press conference. According to ICE’s online detainee locator, though, Oliver-Bruno has already been moved to the remote Stewart Detention Center in Georgia, where most ICE detainees from the Carolinas are taken.

U.S. Representative David Price tweeted about the agreement from ICE this morning.

“It appears ICE has acted in concert with officials at USCIS, who instructed Mr. Oliver-Bruno to appear at local USCIS offices to discuss his deferred deportation. He was then apprehended by plainclothes ICE agents upon entering the building,” Price and U.S. Representative G.K. Butterfield said in a joint statement. “At best, Mr. Oliver-Bruno was presented with a catch-22 dilemma; at worst, he was entrapped. It’s clear that while Mr. Oliver-Bruno was attempting to follow the law in pursuit of his legal petition, ICE coordinated with USCIS to target him upon his leaving the City Well United Methodist Church.”

ICE spokesperson Bryan Cox confirmed the agreement.

“What [Price and Butterfield] are referring to is, even though there are no legal barriers to Mr. Oliver-Bruno’s removal at this time, the agency has said it won’t move forward with actually scheduling his removal until one additional appeal is resolved,” he said in an email to the INDY, adding that he couldn’t speculate when the appeal might be heard.

In a previous statement, Cox said Oliver-Bruno’s case had already “been subject to extensive appeals, which ultimately concluded Mr. Oliver-Brunco has no legal basis to remain in the U.S.”

In the same statement, Cox said the agency’s sensitive locations policy remains in effect and that Oliver-Bruno was arrested in a “targeted enforcement action”: “Unlawfully present foreign nationals are subject to arrest and removal regardless of how long they remain within a designated sensitive location,” he wrote.

Oliver-Bruno came to the U.S. from Mexico in 1994 and had lived in Greenville for twenty-two years with his son and wife, who receives treatment there for lupus and a heart condition. He was caught trying to re-enter the country in 2014 after visiting sick relatives in Mexico and issued final removal orders. He told the INDY immigration officials instructed him to buy a one-way ticket leaving the country by mid-December 2017. When that deadline came, he moved into CityWell, becoming the fifth undocumented person to seek sanctuary in a North Carolina church.

“I cannot give up,” Oliver-Bruno told a crowd at CityWell when he entered sanctuary. “I have to fight for my family. I have to stay because they need me.” 

CityWell is collecting donations to support Oliver-Bruno and his family here.

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