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Deportation and the Law Abiding Non-Citizen: There Must be a Better Way

Samuel Oliver-Bruno, a 24-year resident of the United States, first arrived in the land of the free in 1994. He quickly found a job in construction, and in 1995, his wife gave birth to their son. Samuel went back to Mexico in 2011 when his father became ill, but returned to the U.S. after finding out his wife needed open-heart surgery. At that time, he was arrested and convicted of attempting to enter the U.S. with a fraudulent birth certificate. Oliver-Bruno admitted he was a Mexican citizen without any legal documents to enter the U.S. and paid a $1,000 fine.

Due to enforcement priorities under the Obama administration, Samuel was permitted to stay in the United States under supervision. In 2017, when he routinely applied for an extension, Samuel was told he would be deported. Desperate to stay in the U.S. with his ill wife and son, Samuel sought refuge at a local church. That is, until last month, when he was deported to Mexico.

The day after Thanksgiving, Samuel appeared at his scheduled appointment at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office. He was to complete paperwork and leave his fingerprints, necessary tasks in his request for leniency and to legally remain in the U.S. When he arrived, ICE agents were waiting; he was arrested, and subsequently deported. As a result, his wife may no longer get the help she needs, and his son may not be able to attend college. After all, Samuel was the sole income earner for the family.

Samuel Oliver-Bruno is not the first migrant to be arrested for technical violations of immigration policy after living an exemplary life as a U.S. resident. ICE does not enforce rules consistently and our country’s immigration process has a means to “bait for entrapment and ambush.” Do these tactics undermine our democracy? Shouldn’t our laws be applied equally?

Samuel Oliver-Bruno was an ‘illegal immigrant.’ He was also hard-working, paid taxes, was devoted to his, and was a devout Christian. He was, for all intents and purposes, an American ‘citizen,’ living the American dream. Possible deportation and separation from his family must have haunted him over the years. It is a tough way to live. He posed no threat; he wasn’t ‘bringing crime or drugs’ as our president once infamously uttered. So, why target him, someone that was absolutely no threat? Why arrest him rather than someone, citizen or non-citizen, who poses an actual danger to society? Does the Trump administration have its’ priorities in the wrong place? Isn’t this just a betrayal of justice?

The United States of America is a country founded by immigrants. Colonists first arrived at our shores in the 16th and 17th centuries. They came to America to escape religious persecution, poverty and over-population in their home country. Sound familiar? Some 400 years later, why can’t their descendants find a sensible way to allow today’s immigrant ‘colonists’ to stay and contribute to our country?

American greatness is achieved when our citizens welcome people to our shores, not when we turn our backs on them. Instead of building walls and slamming doors, why don’t we offer our welcoming and helping hands? America must search for, and locate, its soul once again. Lady Liberty beckons other countries to give her ‘your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.’ Isn’t that the America of our ancestors? Where did we steer off course? When did we become so selfish, so self-centered? If our ancestors had been treated the way our government treated Samuel Oliver-Bruno, would there even be an America?

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