The recent arrest of Samuel Oliver-Bruno offers a stark reminder of the horrific circumstances endured by so many of our immigrant brothers and sisters in Christ. Samuel, however, is not just part of the larger body of Christ; he is also a member of our own community here at Duke Divinity School. Two years ago, Samuel began to feel a call to preach and responded, like many people of all ages and backgrounds, by coming to Duke.
Since August of 2017, Samuel has been part of the Hispanic-Latino/a Preaching Initiative, Duke Divinity's ongoing effort to provide theological education to current and aspiring ministers from Hispanic-Latino/a communities. Not long after beginning his studies, Samuel was faced with deportation. The temporary permit under which he had been working in the United States was not renewed as a result of federal policy changes. Wanting to remain close to his wife, Julia, who is seriously ill with lupus, and his son, Daniel, Samuel entered into protective sanctuary at CityWell United Methodist Church. In order to enable Samuel to continue his education, the Hispanic-Latino/a Preaching Initiative relocated its class offerings to CityWell. Even under these difficult circumstances, Samuel continued to be a dedicated and faithful student in the program.
We stand with Samuel today after his unjust arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement at his biometrics appointment that was scheduled by USCIS. And we call for Samuel to be released from custody so he can return to his family and proceed with the USCIS process that he was pursuing in good faith when he was arrested.
We do not, however, merely stand with Samuel and his family out of a sense of obligation. Samuel is known to us. He is loved by us. He is one of us. And we stand as one with him.
As we approach this Advent season, we remember that our savior also knew what it meant to be a refugee and a stranger in a strange land. And we recall the words of Leviticus 19:33-34: “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
Grace and Peace,
Dr. L. Gregory Jones
Dean, Duke Divinity School