Father Fighting Deportation to Ecuador Takes Sanctuary in New Haven Church

A New Haven father of three who was scheduled to be deported to his native Ecuador today has sought sanctuary in a New Haven church to avoid deportation. 

Nelson Pinos, a 43-year-old father of 5-year-old Brandon, 12-year-old Arlly and 15-year-old Kelly, said he came to the United States in 1992 for a better life and is the sole provider for his family.

He has lived in Connecticut since the summer of 1999 and for the last 15 years worked in the same factory until he was recently let go because of his undocumented status.

On Wednesday night, the Board of Immigration Appeal denied his emergency stay requests, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Pinos has decided to take sanctuary in the First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven and he's asking federal immigration agents to allow him to stay in the United States.

"I just want to ask them for an opportunity to review my case and give me a chance to be here," he said.

Immigration officials said Pinos will be considered an immigration fugitive if he does not follow the deportation order by midnight and he will be arrested when ICE officials encounter him. 

Pinos contacted Unidad Latina en Accion, a New Haven-based organization that fights for human rights in the immigrant community for help.

"The decision to take Sanctuary is not an easy one. Nelson has decided to leave his work and his freedom behind to stay with his family. The New Haven community stands by his decision," Jesus Morales, an activist with Unidad Latina en Accion, said in a statement.

"What good is deporting a father of three? None. This man has lived and worked in the community for decades. This is what Trump's immigration policy is about: separating families, terrorizing communities, and traumatizing children," Jon Jairo Lugo, another ULA organizer, said in a statement.

Pinos’ family members collected more than 500 names on a petition in hopes of swaying ICE agents to stop the deportation. On Thursday morning, they walked into the federal building in Hartford in hopes of delivering them but were told the cards had to be mailed instead.

"I wanted her to take it personally. If we do mail it, how do we know if she actually looked at them," Kelly Pinos said after emerging from the federal building.

As Nelson Pinos sought sanctuary in the church several supporters gathered outside the federal building in protest of plans to send him back to Ecuador.

"There's been a lot of occasions that we just want to give up, but there's strength within us and we're going to keep fighting," Nelson's wife. Elsa Calle, said.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro issued a statement Thursday, saying “(t)he Trump administration is once again carrying out their heartless immigration policy by threatening to deport Nelson Pinos Gonzalez,” who she said “works hard, pays his taxes, takes care of his partner and three children, and has no criminal record.”

“President Trump said repeatedly that his administration would target dangerous criminals and felons. Instead, his administration has focused on tearing apart families like Mr. Gonzalez’s—especially those who have been cooperating with ICE. That is counterproductive to his stated mission, and it is cruel,” DeLauro said in a statement.

She is calling on Congress must take up “comprehensive immigration reform that secures our border, protects Americans workers, and, crucially, creates a path to citizenship for the law-abiding,” but said “(d)eporting productive members of our communities that have lived in our nation for decades is inconsistent with our values as a nation, and our laws need to reflect that.”

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement released a statement, saying a federal immigration judge issued a final order of removal for Pinos in 2015.

“As a measure of discretion, Mr. Pinos-Gonzalez has not been placed in ICE custody, but does check in periodically at an ICE office. He has provided proof he intends to comply with his removal order,” the statement from ICE says. “Should he fail to depart as scheduled, he will be listed as an immigration fugitive and arrested when encountered, at which time ICE will carry out his removal.”

ICE said that if Pinos does not follow the deportation order by midnight, he will be considered an immigration fugitive and be arrested when encountered.

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