It’s another fine day in this country as the Rule of Law triumphs once again over political correctness and sanctuary policies. This woman is a convicted criminal who was holed up in a Chicago church for a whole year. Now she’s back in her native country where she belongs, not illegally present in our country.
Newly deported immigration activist Elvira Arellano, joined Monday evening by her 8-year-old son, vowed to continue her fight for immigration reform but acknowledged that she has little chance of ever returning to the United States.
Sitting in a Chinese restaurant in this bustling border town less than a day after her deportation by U.S. authorities, Arellano expressed no regrets at leaving her sanctuary at a Chicago church, saying she would rather have been arrested fighting for immigrants’ rights than remain in refuge.
“If my deportation has united the people, for me it’s good,” she said. “That price had to be paid. If that’s the way it happened, I’m satisfied.”
Immigrant activists in Los Angeles, where Arellano was seized Sunday afternoon, said a march is planned for this weekend to protest her deportation. Pro-enforcement advocates, meanwhile, praised the arrest.
Arellano, however, was focused Monday evening on the agonizing question of whether her son, Saul, would stay with her in Mexico or return to Chicago, where he has lived most of his life. Family friend Rev. Walter “Slim” Coleman said late Monday he expects the boy will return to Chicago for school. Earlier, Arellano had said she hoped he would stay with her, but would take Saul’s wishes into account.
“I will continue to tell him about the beauties of my country,” she said. “He will know that he will have a marvelous future here.”
A 32-year-old undocumented immigrant from Mexico, Arellano said she left Chicago because she feared authorities were preparing to arrest her at Adalberto United Methodist Church in Humboldt Park, where she had taken refuge last August to avoid deportation.
“Their messages about me were getting stronger and stronger. I couldn’t just stay there quiet,” she said. “I did what I had to do: fight. They arrested me but they arrested me fighting, not quiet, not hiding in fear.”
But U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said Monday it was her decision to leave the church that prompted the arrest. They chose to detain her on a Los Angeles street rather than in the Chicago church, a spokesman said, because they believed it would be safer for the arresting officers, as well as Arellano, her companions and the public.
“We had reason to believe that there was going to be a lot of people in there, in the church, there to protect her or do whatever,” said Glenn Triveline, the Chicago field office director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, at a news conference Monday.
Coleman, pastor at the Adalberto United Methodist Church, said U.S. authorities were less concerned about safety than avoiding the potential embarrassment of raiding a church.
“Nobody would do anything to them,” said Coleman. “I think they obviously didn’t want the embarrassment of breaking into a church and separating a mother from her son in front of the cross.”
Arellano was taken into custody Sunday afternoon as she, Saul, and several supporters were leaving a downtown L.A. church on their way San Jose, Calif., where she was to continue giving speeches about the need for immigration reform and visiting sanctuary congregations.
Arellano recounted how she tried to plead her case with U.S. immigration officials one more time after her arrest, pointing out that private bills had been introduced by U.S. Reps. Bobby Rush and Luis Gutierrez, both Chicago Democrats, aimed at keeping her in the United States.
The officials refused to discuss the matter, she said.
“They were angry with me for everything I have done,” she said. “They were in rush to deport me.”
Arellano was detained for nearly nine hours and questioned by U.S. and Mexican officials before she was taken across the border to Tijuana near midnight.
Arellano’s case reverberated in Mexico, where she spent much of Monday doing interviews with local television, radio and newspaper reporters. Two major Mexico City newspapers, Reforma and El Universal, played the news of her arrest as a top international story. Reforma described Arellano as “a mother who was the symbol of immigrants.”
In a sign of the political overtones surrounding her case and the sensitivity of immigration issues in Mexico, the Mexican Foreign Relations Ministry released a statement criticizing the “swiftness” of her deportation.
Michael Keegan, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Enforcement in Washington, said U.S. law prohibits an immigrant from entering the U.S. legally for 10 years if they have previously been deported. Still, a U.S. consular official could override the law and allow Arellano legal entry into the U.S. if she can present mitigating circumstances. The final decision rests with the U.S. State Department, Keegan said.
As a U.S. citizen, Arellano’s son also could petition to have his mother re-admitted to the U.S., but only after he turns 18.
But Arellano said Monday that she has no intention of trying to return either legally or illegally to the United States. She has already received a job offer in Mexico.
“I am in my country. I can walk through the streets free, without fear,” she said.
Good for you. Walk through the streets without fear. Just don’t come here illegally again.
And hey, I.C.E. – good going!