Ann Hui Ching

During a Thanksgiving eve potluck last year, Marco Reyes — an undocumented immigrant from Ecuador who had been living in sanctuary for three months at First and Summerfield Church — received a phone call from his attorney with good news: Reyes would be able to return home to Meriden, Connecticut, while his attorney seeks a review of his deportation order.

Flash forward exactly a year and Elm City resident Nelson Pinos — who has been seeking sanctuary in the same church since November of last year — received different news: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement denied Nelson Pinos a stay of removal, issuing him a one-sentence notice rejecting his request for a stay.

“We are outraged and appalled at ICE’s refusal to provide relief for a family man who has lived in our community for decades,” Vanesa Suarez, an organizer at the New Haven–based immigrant rights organization Unidad Latina en Acción, said in a release. “This affirms our demand that ICE stay out of Connecticut so it can stop destroying immigrant families.”

Pinos’ lawyers and representatives from ICE could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Due to this request denial, Pinos will be forced to remain in sanctuary for the foreseeable future. Pinos and other undocumented immigrants are able to seek sanctuary in churches as ICE officers have been directed not to carry out deportation orders in “sensitive locations” since 2011.

On Oct. 24, Pinos’ legal team filed a motion for an emergency stay of removal with ICE’s Hartford branch. Had it been granted, this motion would have allowed Pinos to stay in the country and return to his family while he fights his case. More than 150 community members wrote letters addressed to Hartford ICE Director Aldean Beaumont in support of Pinos, testifying to his good character and urging a positive resolution to his case. These letters were all included with the motion for stay request.

On Nov. 13, community members rallied in front of Hartford’s ICE office to ask the agency to allow Nelson to stay in the United States and be home for the holiday season.

However, on Wednesday, the Boston office of ICE affirmed Beaumont’s recommendation that Pinos be denied his request for a stay of deportation, according to a press release from community activists.

Pinos has two daughters, 16-year-old Kelly and 13-year-old Arlly, as well as a six-year-old son, Brandon, with his partner, Elsa. According to Pinos’ lawyers, the stay of removal request was based on the urgent and documented psychological harm Pinos’ children — who are all American citizens — are currently experiencing as a result of their family’s separation.

Nelson, who is now 43 years old, has been in the United States since 1992, when he was 18 years old. He has been a Connecticut resident for nearly 20 years.

The Rev. Vicki Flippin of First and Summerfield Church said in a Facebook post that the future of Pinos’ family is “agonizingly uncertain.” Flippin said that she hoped the Pinos’ family would be able to enjoy the holidays in “freedom and peace.”

“We are incredibly disappointed by the cruelty of ICE’s decision to deny a stay of deportation for Nelson just before the holidays,” Flippin wrote.

According to the release, advocates for Pinos have pledged to continue to fight for Pinos and pressure ICE to reverse its decision. The release listed several groups that will continue this advocacy efforts, including the Connecticut Immigrants Rights Alliance, Unidad Latina en Acción, CT Shoreline Indivisible, Center for Community Change, New Sanctuary CT and Action Together CT.

Sammy Westfall |