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AP Sobs: Immigration Activist Deported

From her fans at the Associated Press:

Immigration Activist Deported

August 20, 2007

LOS ANGELES (AP) — An illegal immigrant who took refuge in a Chicago church for a year to avoid being separated from her U.S.-born son has been deported to Mexico, the church’s pastor said.

Elvira Arellano became an activist and a national symbol for illegal immigrant parents as she defied her deportation order and spoke out from her religious sanctuary. She held a news conference last week to announce that she would finally leave the church to try to lobby U.S. lawmakers for change.

She had just spoken at a Los Angeles rally when she was arrested Sunday outside Our Lady Queen of Angels church and deported, said the Rev. Walter Coleman, pastor of Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago, where Arellano had been living.

”She is free and in Tijuana,” said Coleman, who said he spoke to her on the phone. ”She is in good spirits. She is ready to continue the struggle against the separation of families from the other side of the border.”

Her 8-year-old son, Saul, is now living with Coleman’s family. During a news conference in Los Angeles after Arellano’s arrest, the boy hid behind the pastor’s wife and wiped away tears.

Arellano had said on Saturday that she was not afraid of being taken into custody by immigration agents.

”From the time I took sanctuary, the possibility has existed that they arrest me in the place and time they want,” she said in Spanish. ”I only have two choices. I either go to my country, Mexico, or stay and keep fighting. I decided to stay and fight.”

Arellano, 32, arrived in Washington state illegally in 1997. She was deported to Mexico shortly afterward, but returned and moved to Illinois in 2000, taking a job cleaning planes at O’Hare International Airport.

She was arrested in 2002 at O’Hare and convicted of working under a false Social Security number. She was to surrender to authorities last August but instead sought refuge at the church on Aug. 15, 2006.

She had not left the church property until she decided to travel by car to Los Angeles, Coleman said.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed her arrest and said she was deported Sunday night through San Diego’s San Ysidro border crossing. The discussions there included Luis Cabrera, Mexico’s general consul in San Diego, and Robin Baker, ICE’s director of detention and removals in San Diego, ICE spokeswoman Lauren Mack said.

”Obviously this was a woman who didn’t want to go. They wanted to make sure any possible legal avenue that may have been open to her was closed,” Mack said. ”This was a very, very sensitive removal for us as well as Mexico.” …

Arellano is staying with a friend in Tijuana, Coleman said. He said she had brought to light her struggle, and for that, ”she has won a victory.”

”She’ll be organizing on the Mexican side of the border while we’re organizing in the (United) States,” Coleman said Monday. ”She’ll be talking to organizations throughout Mexico and congressmen in Mexico City.”

Coleman said he and other activists will continue Arellano’s original plan to go to Washington, D.C., and take part in a prayer meeting and rally for immigration reform at the Capitol on Sept. 12.

Immigration activists promised protests and vigils to support Arellano.

”We are sad, but at the same time we are angry,” said Javier Rodriguez, a Chicago immigration activist who worked with Arellano. ”How dare they arrest this woman?”

Anti-illegal immigrant groups said the arrest was long overdue.

While being arrested, Arellano spoke briefly with her son before submitting to authorities, said Emma Lozano, Coleman’s wife and head of immigration rights group Centro Sin Fronteras in Chicago.

”She calmed him down, hugged him and gave him a blessing,” Lozano said.

If you or any or any other legal citizen of the United States had been charged with “identity theft” and then skipped out on bail, would we be let off so lightly?

And would we be celebrated by the media as an “activist”? Would Jesse Jackson’s wife call us “the new Rosa Parks”?

Somehow I don’t think so.

And how long will Ms. Arellano vacation in Mexico before she decides to return — for the third time (that we know of).

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, August 20th, 2007. Comments are currently closed.

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