We often sit in classrooms debating immigration policies, but none of our work truly affects the Trump Administration’s strict policies on deportation, nor affects the physical scars ICE leaves.

On Friday, it had been 281 days that Nelson Pinos had been living in sanctuary in United Methodist Church. A New Haven resident for the past 20 years, Nelson has been confined to his room for 281 days, onlooking Yale’s Old Campus, to avoid deportation. In October 2017, Nelson had been asked to permanently return to Ecuador and leave his manufacturing job, leaving his three kids that he’s a sole provider for behind.

Though many Yale students, like me, often feel isolated from the immediacy of deportation and the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, or ICE, stories like Nelson’s often move us to organize. 

With that little information, over 400 Yale University students, members of the Yale community, and speakers showed up for a momentous rally to support undocumented immigrants. Most everyone wore black, and many carried signs. The rally mirrored one from last year, when then-senior, Viviana Marquez, petitioned ICE to change her father’s citizenship status. Despite raising 4 kids, paying taxes and working multiple jobs, Viviana’s father was detained and deported, unable to watch his daughter graduate. 

We often sit in classrooms debating immigration policies, but none of our work truly affects the Trump Administration’s strict policies on deportation, nor affects the physical scars ICE leaves.

The controversies lately seem endless—from missing black and brown children to separated families, leaving toddlers in enclosed cages—yet, there’s seems to be little legislative movement. What gives ICE the authority to act as they do, ripping families apart? What about the picturesque American Dream reflects what we see today?

281. 281 was the number plastered on bulletin boards all around campus, starkly without much context but Friday, 4:30 PM, United Methodist Church, New Haven. Soon after, more words read “Free Nelson.”

As students, I know we will continue to organize. We can rally, fundraise, speak—but until administrative officials begin acting on moral compasses instead of partisan ideals, nothing will change. 

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Grace Jin

Grace Jin is a student at Yale University. She’s a multi-time national champion in debate and is passionate about intersectional politics from the perspective of Generation Z.

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