Landscaper, 26, had image as peacemaker; brother tells of worry
By Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne)
June 27, 2020
Caption: Jorge Oliva, upper right, shares the pillar with protesters Brittiane Jones, center, and Akeila Council at a June 4 protest downtown. Two weeks later, Oliva was arrested by Fort Wayne police and faces deportation to Mexico, where he has not lived since he was 6 years old.
Jorge Oliva was a familiar sight at the downtown Black Lives Matter protests that began May 29.
Mexico-born Oliva, who alternatively went by Jorge and George, became one of the leaders who took to the microphone, often reassuring the crowd that Black and brown people stood together as they fought racism and bigotry. National protests were ignited by the death of George Floyd by a white Minneapolis police officer May 24.
But the 26-year-old landscaper, who once held up his ankle monitor for all to see as he stood on a pillar at the Allen County Courthouse green, is now awaiting his fate at an Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facility in Wisconsin, his brother Hector said, speaking for the Oliva-Romero family.
He was charged June 16 with misdemeanor rioting, disorderly conduct, obstruction of traffic and resisting law enforcement. But on June 19, charges were dismissed, and Oliva was picked up by ICE officials.
Hector Oliva said he was first taken to Indianapolis, then to Clay County before he was sent to an ICE detention facility in Wisconsin.
Protesters and Faith in Indiana, an activist group that has organized protests on the green, plan to assemble 11 a.m. Monday on the Main Street side of the Allen County Courthouse to demand that Allen County Sheriff David Gladieux “immediately end ICE collaboration” and that “no person be separated from their family.”
Gladieux said on Friday that “Jorge was brought in, posted bond on two charges he had local on the 19th. ICE showed up and took him with their proper government paperwork.”
For now, Oliva is being represented by Brian Seyfried, a local immigration attorney, according to Hector Oliva and Jain Young, a long-time local activist with United Activists of Fort Wayne. United Activists has helped bond out many local protesters.
If Oliva were to be deported to Mexico, it would be a difficult road, Hector Oliva said. Jorge Oliva left Guanajuato when he was 6 years old with his mother, father and another sibling. He grew up in Fort Wayne and graduated from Snider High School.
He lives with his parents and two younger brothers and is the father to two daughters, ages 5 and 1, with whom he shares custody.
“My mom has been really stressed and crying. She’s been getting headaches. I guess my dad tries to ignore it, but I can see the pain in his eyes,” Hector said.
At one point, Jorge considered applying for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or Dreamers Act, that allows young immigrants brought to the U.S. to stay, but balked at the $5,000 the papers apparently cost, Hector said.
Family members in Mexico are wary of taking in a young relative who has tattoos on his body and something of a record, Hector Oliva said. He was found guilty of misdemeanor battery in November 2015 but received a suspended sentence on the charge, according to court documents.
“All these narco killings, and he doesn’t know anything, and he has tattoos all over. We have family. They don’t want him. That’s what makes my mom mad,” Hector said.
During the protests, Oliva was someone who worked to keep the peace, Brittiane Jones, of the newly formed protest group 401+ Years, said. Jones was one of the speakers who shared the pillar with Jorge after the June 4 Unity Walk with Mayor Tom Henry and Chief of Police Steve Reed, where Jorge bared his leg to show the ankle monitor.
“I don’t care no more,” he shouted by her side. “I’m doing this for my people.”
Jones said Jorge was a “vital piece. He was able to speak up for the brown community where we can’t, although we are the same and deal with some of the similar problems,” Jones said. “They’re the ones who are being detained in camps.”
The two had “plenty of conversations involving his deportation and yes, in fact, he was afraid. He didn’t let that steer him from the narrative. His passion was so great that he was willing to be deported for it,” Jones said.
Several Change.org petitions have been filed including one by his 18-year-old brother Rafael to fight deportation proceedings. The petition filed by Rafael, as of Friday evening, had more than 1,700 signatures with an initial goal of 2,500. The Change.org goals change when the number approaches an original number.
“Jorge Oliva was a Peaceful Protester wrongfully detained on June 15, 2020 protest in Fort Wayne, IN,” the first sentence reads. “Just because he wasn’t born here he is not treated as a human being. Sign this ASAP so we can send it to the proper authorities and drop all charges against this innocent man!!!!”