Illegal immigrant campaigns for reform after leaving church

first_imgAn illegal immigrant who sought sanctuary in a Chicago church to avoid deportation and separation from her 8-year-old American son left for the first time in a year to campaign Saturday for immigration reform. Elvira Arellano, speaking at a downtown church, said 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.” Congress failed to pass immigration reform legislation in its last session. Arellano and other activists want lawmakers to place a moratorium on deportations and hammer out reforms that would allow undocumented immigrants to remain in the country, at least temporarily. As Arellano spoke, her son, Saul, took part in a small immigration reform rally by activists a few miles away at City Hall. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials declined to discuss their operations, but no uniformed agents appeared to be present at the church or rally. Local church officials said Arellano planned to visit and pray today with the families of four other people who are staying in sanctuary churches in Los Angeles, then head back East. On Sept. 12 she planned to take part in a prayer meeting and rally for immigration reform at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. “I will go and pray and fast in front of the Congress,” Arellano said in a written statement. “I will go with my Bible and my son and I will read to him from the Holy Scriptures as I do every day. “If this government would arrest me and separate me from my son, let them do it in front of the men and women who have the responsibility to fix this broken law and uphold the principles of human dignity.” Arellano came to Washington state illegally in 1997. She was deported to Mexico shortly after, 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 later convicted of working under a false Social Security number. She was to surrender to authorities last August. She sought sanctuary on Aug. 15, 2006, at Adalberto United Methodist Church. She had not left the church property until deciding to be driven to Los Angeles, said the Rev. Walter Coleman, pastor of the storefront church on Chicago’s West Side.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “We cannot wait for another election,” she said. “We can’t wait, sitting with our arms crossed, while our families are being separated.” The 32-year-old and her son took refuge last year. Arellano said she didn’t want to be separated from the boy, who was born in the United States. She has since become a symbol of the struggles of illegal immigrant parents and a source of controversy, praised for her steadfastness and criticized as a scofflaw. Arellano, wearing an embroidered peasant blouse and pink flip-flops, spoke at La Placita, a historic Roman Catholic church near the Mexican-themed Olvera Street that has joined other churches nationwide in declaring itself a sanctuary for illegal immigrants. The movement is largely symbolic since immigration agents are not legally barred from making arrests in churches. last_img read more