Friends and family of a Fort Wayne protester arrested and facing deportation took issue Monday with police cooperation with the federal immigration agency that is holding him.
Jorge Oliva, also known as George Oliva, 26, was arrested June 15 by Fort Wayne police on charges of rioting, disorderly conduct, resisting law enforcement and obstructing traffic. Three days later, according to his family, Oliva was sent to a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Wisconsin.
Hector Oliva, 14, said it could be months before hearings are held to determine whether his brother should be deported to Mexico.
“My brother's a good man,” said Hector, who joined about 20 protesters Monday outside the Allen County Courthouse to call on Sheriff David Gladieux to stop working with immigration officials. “No one deserves to be taken away from their family just because of one mistake.”
Court documents say Oliva was among a crowd that rioted June 14 in downtown Fort Wayne. He moved a fence blocking Clinton Street, obstructing traffic, police said.
The next day, charging documents say, Oliva threatened to “unload on some people,” but the documents do not provide specific information. Police at the time said an unnamed officer thought Oliva might be armed with a rifle “in his pants,” and investigators said he held a metal bat and “violently pulled away” from officers trying to arrest him. The misdemeanor charges were later dismissed, court records show.
Steve Stone, a spokesman for the Allen County Sheriff's Department, said his agency was following the law when federal officials were called.
“If we have someone that has a detainer for ICE, we notify them that we have that individual,” he said.
Oliva moved at age 6 to Fort Wayne from Guanajuato, a city of about 185,000 in central Mexico, with his parents and a sibling. A landscaper, he has two daughters and graduated from Snider High School.
Those who spoke at the protest organized Monday by Faith in Indiana described him as a peacemaker seeking social justice, not a hardened criminal who should be sent to a country now foreign to him.
“No one should have to be deported just for being out in the street, protesting for what they believe in,” said Dora Cantu, 18, who met Oliva at a Black Lives Matter protest near the courthouse. “We're in America – the United States – where police say they're protecting us. They're not protecting us.”
Laura Romero, Oliva's mother, said she last spoke to her son Sunday by phone.
“Not that long,” she said through Hector, her interpreter. “Just a couple words. We're fighting for him.”
Gladieux has previously expressed some support for undocumented immigrants, telling those gathered at a 2018 town hall event that his deputies do not round up people in the U.S. without permission and he doesn't “believe in ripping babies out of the arms of somebody who's just not here legally.”
Stone, his spokesman, also said Monday that no one in the department is tasked with finding undocumented immigrants and turning them over to federal agents.
Oliva has a minor criminal history littered with misdemeanor charges – the most serious a battery charge for which he pleaded guilty in 2015 and was given a one-year suspended jail sentence. Records show he violated the terms of the sentence and was ordered to spend 60 days in jail, and that sentence was later reduced to 20 days.
The case filed also references an “ICE hold” in 2017, though it is not clear how that was resolved.
Faith in Indiana and protesters urged residents to contact the Chicago ICE office that is handling Oliva's case to push for his release.