Ann Hui Ching

For 327 days, Nelson Pinos Gonzalez has stayed within the First and Summerfield United Methodist Church, where he is seeking sanctuary in response to deportation orders from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

This Wednesday, the legal team representing Pinos will be filing a motion for an emergency stay of removal with the Hartford branch of ICE. If granted, the stay of removal would allow Pinos to stay in the country and return to his family while he fights his case. To demonstrate support for Pinos and testify to his character, over 150 community members and students have written letters on his behalf. This is the second request for a stay of removal that Pinos’ attorneys have submitted — their most recent appeal was denied last month.

“This is one of the very few times where we have a guarantee that ICE will have to read the letters by law,” said Ramón Garibaldo Valdéz GRD ’22, a member of Unidad Latina en Acción — a local immigrant rights group — who has been organizing the letter-writing campaign. “We get to speak truth’s power with the knowledge we have of [Pinos’] story. I think that’s why the letters have been so important.”

According to Vanessa Suarez, an activist at ULA, the letters are intended to put pressure on ICE to respond to the stay request — as opposed to delaying the case further. The letters are directly addressed to Aldean Beaumont, director of Hartford ICE, and will be included in the file for the motion for a stay. Garibaldo also said that ULA plans to launch a “more public campaign” by sharing the letters on social media, with permission from the writers.

The letter-writing campaign will culminate with a press conference and rally in front of the Hartford ICE building on Wednesday. That same day, ULA and community religious leaders will also hold a vigil in solidarity with the Pinos family. According to Garibaldo, the actions will hopefully be “the last leg of the campaign” to get Pinos out of sanctuary.

“For us, for the community that has been here, the trauma [to the Pinos family] is very visible to us,” Suarez said. “It’s not something that’s far away … We know that they’re going through a very hard time. We’ve seen them in that struggle.”

Several Yale students also submitted letters, including members of the Yale Undergraduate Legal Aid Association. According to Arka Gupta ’20, external president of YULAA, Nelson’s freedom is tied to the group’s mission — as the organization often works with undocumented clients by volunteering with legal projects throughout the city.

Suarez also noted that many of the letters were written by students from public schools in New Haven. Young children who know Pinos submitted drawings that will be included in the file as well. Suarez said that because Pinos’ three children — Kelly, Arlly and Brandon — all attend public schools in the district, it is especially important for other students in the community to show solidarity with their peers.

“We believe that we need to uplift the voices and the experiences that Nelson’s kids are going through,” Suarez said. “We wanted to bring visibility and raise consciousness for students to more actively ask each other ‘What is your family going through?’ And I think those conversations are not had in schools, regardless of how black and brown the population may be.”

Pinos emigrated from Ecuador in 1992. On Nov. 30 last year, Pinos entered sanctuary, after ICE asked Pinos to permanently leave the country. ICE officers have been directed to not enforce deportation orders in places of worship and other “sensitive locations” since 2011 — as per a memo issued by then-director of ICE John Morton.

Pinos’ legal team filed a request for a stay, but ICE denied the motion. Pinos’ legal team then filed motions to appeal the decision twice, but the appeals were denied this year, both by ICE and the Board of Immigration Appeals.

According to Garibaldo, Pinos’ proximity to the Yale campus has encouraged more of the University community to get involved in his case. Garibaldo said that many students have met Pinos in person or attended an action in solidarity with Pinos.

“I like that a lot of the community feels this sense of ownership, because he’s near us, because he’s literally on our campus, that we have to protect him. And not just that we have to protect him, that we have to work with him,” Garibaldo said. “Because if there’s anyone that’s doing civil disobedience every day, it’s [Pinos].”

Pinos is 43 years old.

Ruiyan Wang | .