Local News

Pastor living in Durham church shaken by friend's ICE detainment

Posted November 28, 2018 5:57 p.m. EST

— The undocumented man who was living in sanctuary in a Durham church and detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Friday could be deported at any moment.

The case of Samuel Oliver-Bruno sent shock waves into the religious community and the sanctuary community.

There are several people in North Carolina also living in churches. ICE traditionally has not arrested people inside churches, hospitals or schools because of its "sensitive location" policy.

Pastor Jose Chicas is one of them. He has lived on the property of St. John’s Baptist Church in Durham for 17 months.

He said watching what happened to Oliver-Bruno, a friend, confirmed what he already thought: He can’t dare to set a foot off the church’s property.

He said he would speak with Oliver-Bruno often, both commiserating about the challenges of living in churches.

“I talked to him over the phone,” Chicas said. “He called me every week, and I called to him and talked about sanctuary.”

Chicas said Oliver-Bruno was optimistic about his appointment Friday with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Chicas was shocked and saddened, he said, to see the news that his friend was detained by ICE at that appointment.

“My family, my little son, he is very nervous,” Chicas said. “He said, ‘Daddy, you cannot go outside.”

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is a minister at St. John’s Baptist Church. He said what happened to Oliver-Bruno affects him and other members of the church.

“What ICE did to trick and trap Samuel is really an attack on the whole sanctuary community,” Wilson-Hartgrove said.

He said the sanctuary community will continue to stand behind Oliver-Bruno and keep fighting his deportation.

“The people who have committed to sanctuary are going to put all of our bodies on the line and continue to fight this fight,” Wilson-Hartgrove said

“None of us wants to live in a country where people are treated this way,” he continued.

Chicas said that on Friday, the day Oliver-Bruno was arrested, he noticed a government car parked outside the church for hours.

He said he suspects it was ICE.

Oliver-Bruno is in a detention center in Georgia. His supporters have planned an event for outside City Hall on Thursday.