Connecticut: Solidarity postcards support Nelson Pinos in sanctuary
Nelson Pinos celebrates his birthday with his family in the sanctuary of the First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven, Conn. | Courtesy of the Pinos Family

NEW HAVEN, Conn.—One day postcards started arriving from all over the country, many handwritten by children, wishing Nelson Pinos Gonzalez well. One came from as far away as South Africa to lift his spirits.

One of the postcards from a supporter received by Nelson Pinos. | Courtesy of the Pinos Family

He said he made the difficult decision to enter the church, where he has been living ever since, in order to keep his wife and family together.

The Pinos family is one of thousands whose lives have been cruelly and senselessly upended as part of a massive Trump administration deportation effort targeted to tear families apart. At least 100 immigrants are living in sanctuary at churches across the country at this time.

“I am so sorry you have to go through all the fear and uncertainty. I am glad you found a place of refuge. Hopefully our country will regain its footings and offer a safe haven once again to all peoples. Be strong. Much love from Alaska,” reads one of the hand-printed postcards.

A temporary stay of deportation was denied to Pinos last November, although he has a pending request with an immigration court to reopen his case. Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Sen. Richard Blumenthal have written letters on his behalf.

“ICE has confirmed to me Mr. Pinos does not have a criminal history,” Blumenthal wrote. “I cannot understand how deporting Mr. Pinos is the best use of ICE resources.”

Pinos took sanctuary a week after Marco Reyes, who lived in the church for 100 days, was granted a temporary stay enabling him to rejoin his family in time for the holidays.

The postcard campaign is just one of many expressions of solidarity that have been initiated.

Unidad Latina en Accion, the immigrant workers’ rights organization, moved their weekly meetings to the church so Pinos and his family could participate. The agendas are filled with the many issues the community is confronting, from constant upcoming deportation orders to wage theft and even a recent strike.

Different members of the community offer to stay overnight at the church when possible so Pinos is not alone. Online collections help the family make up for the loss of wages that Pinos, who has lived in this country for 24 years, earned at his factory job.

Now he spends his days helping out at the church and with some of ULA’s projects. In the evenings, his family comes to spend some time together.

One of the postcards from a supporter received by Nelson Pinos. | Courtesy of the Pinos Family

On a big map of the city, Pinos keeps track of how many signatures have been collected in each ward for the Sanctuary City effort. The petitions request the New Haven Board of Alders to enact a sanctuary city ordinance so that the present police order under Mayor Toni Harp becomes permanent.

This order prohibits police from asking about immigration status when dealing with members of the community. It has increased safety in the city by creating the conditions under which people feel free to approach the police if necessary.

The petition asks that this policy be extended to all city departments.

Since Pinos has been in sanctuary, two other Connecticut families have sought refuge in churches, one in Meriden and another in New London. The New Sanctuary Movement of clergy and the Connecticut Immigrant Rights Alliance coordinate the support work needed to help them.

“Keep your faith, dear family,” reads a brightly colored postcard from Vermont. “Our family welcomes yours and stands with you.” Another simply says, “You Matter.”

Especially treasured is the note from his daughter’s seventh grade teacher. “You are in my thoughts during this challenging time. Also, to thank you for being a ‘true’ American, father, and outstanding example of what we should all strive to be. Our country needs more of you! You and your wife raised just as outstanding daughters.”

As the political struggle heats up to halt deployment of the National Guard to the border and in demand of an extension of DACA, the expressions of solidarity for the courageous families on the front lines living in sanctuary are very significant.

Messages to Nelson Pinos Gonzalez can be sent to:

First and Summerfield Methodist Church

425 College Street

New Haven CT 06511


CONTRIBUTOR

Joelle Fishman
Joelle Fishman

Joelle Fishman chairs the Connecticut Communist Party USA. She is a Commissioner on the City of New Haven Peace Commission, serves on the executive board of the Alliance of Retired Americans in Connecticut and is an active member of many economic rights and social justice organizations. As chair of the CPUSA Political Action Commission, she has played an active role in the broad labor and people's alliance and continues to mobilize for health care, worker rights and peace.    

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