Instead of leaving this country and his family, a father from New Haven is the latest undocumented immigrant in Connecticut to seek sanctuary in a church.
Nelson Pinos has lived in Connecticut since 1992 and was scheduled to be deported on Thursday. However, the 43-year-old opted to take sanctuary at the First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven.
"We will struggle," Nelson's 15-year-old daughter Kelly Pinos said. "My mom doesn't work and I'll have to find a job and manage school and a job to help my mom. It's a lot of responsibility."
Nelson Pinos, who has a wife and three children, ages 15, 12 and 5, had a plane ticket to head back to Ecuador on Thursday afternoon.
"It's tough because I know Christmas is coming," Nelson Pinos said. "I don't know if I'll be able to go outside and buy Christmas gifts for my kids. And that's something that will break my heart."
A news conference for Pinos, who is an undocumented immigrant, happened at noon at the church on College Street. Nelson Pinos entered the church at 6 a.m. on Thursday.
“Ever since his election, [President] Donald Trump has kept harassing our communities, deporting people who until now had not been considered a danger to the country. We’re protesting for Nelson, but also to show how angry we are at this immigration system,” said John Jairo Lugo, member of grassroots organization Unidad Latina en Acción.
Lugo was part of a group of activists that protested outside of the Abraham Ribicoff Federal Building in Hartford on Thursday morning.
"The decision to take sanctuary is not an easy one," Jesus Morales, an activist with Unidad Latina en Acción, said. "Nelson has decided to leave his work and his freedom behind to stay with his family. The New Haven community stands by his decision."
According to Morales, he has worked at a factory in Milford for 15 years and has no criminal record.
"It made me happy because at least he's still close to us," Kelly Pinos said. "It's not as if I'll never see him again, but very anxious because I want him to get out of here and I want him to be home."
On Thursday morning, his children were said to have delivered hundreds of postcards signed by family friends to Immigration and Customs Enforcement pleading to allow Pinos to stay.
Morales said Pinos gave himself up to ICE in 2012 to try and fix his immigration status.
According to ICE, Nelson Pinos was issued a final order of removal in 2015. Since then, Nelson Pinos said he would check in periodically, until recently getting told he'd have to leave.
On Wednesday night, Nelson Pinos' emergency stay request was denied by the Board of Immigration Appeals. After missing his flight, ICE officials said Nelson Pinos "will be listed as an immigration fugitive and arrested when encountered, at which time ICE will carry out his removal."
"Think about it, we don't know how long he's going to be separated from his family," Yazmin Rodriguez, who is the attorney for Nelson Pinos, said. "This is not an ideal option for him, so the best for us right now is to work as fast as we can to try and get him out of here."
The church previously provided sanctuary to Marco Reyes, who continues to find deportation. Reyes showed up to support Nelson Pinos and even built the lectern used at Thursday's news conference.
Last wee, Reyes, who's also from Ecuador, got word that he could go home, while the court takes a look at his case.
As for Nelson Pinos, while his attorney looks into his legal options, he said he's ready for the long haul.
"It's been very difficult, very painful, not only for me, but my kids because they are the ones suffering the most," Nelson Pinos said. "I have faith. I believe in God. He will help us and we'll come out through this."
Right now, there are two immigrants in Connecticut that are seeking sanctuary. Nelson Pinos joins Sujitno Sajuti. A West Hartford man seeking sanctuary at a Meriden church rather than go back to Indonesia.
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