Father Fighting Deportation to Ecuador Speaks from Church Where He's Taken Sanctuary

A New Haven father of three who has spent nearly seven months in a New Haven church to avoid deportation to his native Ecuador stood out on the church steps Tuesday during a rally held to support him and spoke of how difficult it has been to be separated from his family.

"It's been seven months that I've been stuck in this church, without being able to provide for my family, without being able to take my kids to school, without being able to go with them to the park, to help them with their needs, without being able to tell my son when I'm going to go back home, when he asks me, which is very often." Nelson Pinos' said during a news conference.

Pinos is fighting to stay in the United States and his family, friends, lawyers and supporters gathered outside the First and Summerfield United Methodist Church Tuesday morning.

"In a time in which we are focusing on the media attention and we're denouncing family separation that is happening on the U.S.-Mexico border, let us not forget the family separation that is happening right here in New Haven, in our city, in our state of Connecticut," said Vanessa Suarez, of Unidad Latina en Accion, The grassroots organization that works on behalf of immigrants in greater New Haven.

Pinos 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 more than a dozen years worked in the same factory until he was let go because of his undocumented status.

Officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said a federal immigration judge issued a final order of removal for Pinos in 2015 and he was not placed in ICE custody but was allowed to check in periodically at an ICE office.

“Mr. Pinos-Gonzalez previously provided proof he intends to comply with his removal order, but subsequently failed to depart as scheduled. As a result, he was designated as an immigration fugitive and will be arrested when encountered, at which time ICE will carry out his removal,” ICE said in a statement.

Pinos is asking federal immigration agents to allow him to stay in the United States.

Pinos' legal team said they are trying to fight the finality of the removal order, but they've hit roadblocks.

Attorney Tina Colon Williams said an immigration court in Bloomington, Minnesota filed an order for removal for Pinos during a hearing. Pinos did not attend the hearing because he did not know about it. 

She says they have been trying to file a motion to reopen his case directly with the immigration court there to allow him an opportunity to present himself and see if he's eligible for relief from removal. For the last several months, the Bloomington Immigration Court has refused to accept the motion. Now, Pinos' legal team said they've filed a motion to reopen his case with the Board of Immigration Appeals, which will decide what happens next. 

“If an immigration fugitive seeks sanctuary at a site categorized by ICE as a sensitive location it may delay, but does not void ICE’s authority to enforce a final order of removal against that individual. The removal order against Mr. Pinos-Gonzalez remains in effect,” a statement from ICE says.

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