© 2024 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New Haveners Light Tree In Honor Of Sanctuary Seekers

Cassandra Basler
Nelson Pinos and his wife, son and two daughters stand in front of the lighted Sanctuary Tree surrounded by community members at First and Summerfield United Methodist Church in New Haven. Pinos has been living in the church basement since November.

On Monday night more than two dozen New Haven residents gathered at First and Summerfield United Methodist Church to light a so-called Sanctuary Tree – a Christmas tree honoring Connecticut residents facing deportation. 

Dozens held glowing candles on the steps of First and Summerfield to support Nelson Pinos, the second person to seek sanctuary in the church.

Pinos and his family stood next to a 12-foot tree decorated with the names of people who are fighting their immigration cases. He spoke through an interpreter.

“As it seems like this Christmas we’re not going to be able to celebrate at home, with my family, for us Christmas starts today, by lighting this tree.”

Pinos was ordered to board a plane to his native Ecuador last month. He’s been living in the church because Immigration and Customs Enforcement considers churches, schools, and hospitals sensitive locations where officials will not enter.

His legal team is trying to appeal his case so that he can stay with his wife, son and two daughters in Connecticut. Pinos says the tree is a symbol.

“This tree of hope, hope not only for me and my person, but for everyone who is going through this situation.”

Several community members spoke out in support of Pinos and his family...and brought some holiday cheer.

Cassandra Basler, a former senior editor at WSHU, came to the station by way of Columbia Journalism School in New York City. When she's not reporting on wealth and poverty, she's writing about food and family.