Juan Pu's family recently discussed the impact his immigration detainment is having on their lives. Pictured, left to right, are his 14-year-old son John; his wife, Natalia Pu-Calan; his four-year-old son, David; and his 16-year-old daughter, Jessica. (Photo by Angel Larcom) (click for larger version)
April 25, 2019LITTLETON — On the afternoon of April 11, Juan Pu, the chef at Plain Kate's Riverside Saloon and All Ways Inn in Franconia, was taken into custody by Border Patrol agents as he was leaving Meadow Ice Cream and Seafood in Littleton with his family. Earlier in the month, former Mount Washington and Bailiwick's employee, Calvin Madpole was also detained and placed in custody.
While Madpole had been living in the area for a few years, Pu and his family relocated to northern New Hampshire from West Palm Beach, Fla. only nine months ago. Pu lived and worked in Florida for 16 years before moving to the White Mountains.
According to Cornelia Lorentzen, his current employer and the owner of Plain Kate's Riverside Saloon and All Ways Inn, Pu was a regular face in the kitchen at Imoto, an esteemed Florida restaurant belonging to celebrity chef and James Beard nominee Clay Conley.
Although Pu is a native of Guatemala, two of his three children are American-born. Lorentzen said it is this fact, as well as the fact that he was the sole breadwinner for a family of five, that makes his case a particularly poignant and difficult one, regardless of whether he was in violation of the law.
Attempts by our reporter to contact U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for information regarding the cases against Pu and Madpole were unsuccessful.
Lorentzen has become Pu's champion in the fight to return him to his family. Not only has she successfully rallied the local community; she has also secured support from the offices of Congresswoman Annie Kuster, as well as Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassen. She also intends to reach out to Gov. Chris Sununu.
In addition to an active GoFundMe drive, Lorentzen says additional support has been arriving from outside the realm of internet-based campaigns. While unwilling to discuss actual numbers, Lorentzen said they have received "substantially more than what you see online."
"It's been incredibly heartening," she continued, as she discussed the overwhelming amount of support coming in on Pu's behalf.
To date, Pu's situation has garnered support from both the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the American Friends Committee. SangYeob Kim, Immigration Legal Fellow at the ACLU of New Hampshire, has recently taken his case.
"We will be representing Mr. Pu for his bond hearing so that he can fight his case while at home with his family—where he belongs," said SangYeob Kim.
Simultaneously, Madpole is in contact with and receiving support from local friends Linda Warden and her daughter Janalese. But America's immigration system does not make it easy to locate, much less communicate with detained parties once they are in the system.
When asked how Pu's family is bearing the pressure of the situation, Lorentzen said his wife, Natalia, is a woman of profound faith.
"I am humbled by how gracefully she is dealing with this," Lorentzen added.
Natalia Pu-Calan said she has not gone out since Border Patrol took her husband into custody two weeks ago. As the mother of a four-year-old, a 14-year-old and a sixteen-year-old, she now bears sole responsibility for their safety and well-being.
Pu's family said they have been able to speak with him on the phone. They currently rely on the care and generosity of both their church and the local community in his absence.
Jessica, a high school sophomore and Pu's eldest child, said "Mom wants him to come back because it's affecting all of us. He's the only one who works in the family."
While immigration remains a heated issue, Lorentzen maintains that it is not a simple black or white situation. The process of first securing and then maintaining legal citizenship in the United States is complex, time-sensitive and expensive, and those who come to the United States legally can unwittingly slide into illegal status without realizing it due to a lack of understanding on their part that they are expected to monitor their own status, and may not receive official notification in the event of scenarios such as expired Visas.
Lorentzen also pointed to cases brought forward by the ACLU of Border Patrol practices that some believe unfairly hinder the rights of alleged illegals and result in their cases being pushed through the court system too quickly to guarantee due process. The cases of both Juan Pu and Calvin Madpole are the first to garner widespread local awareness about such practices.