Arellano: Fight for immigration reform not over

Monday, August 20, 2007

Immigration activist Elvira Arellano is now in Mexico after being deported following arrest in Los Angeles on Sunday. Her friends say she is in good spirits despite being separated from her family.

Rev. Walter Coleman, the Chicago pastor who was with Elvira Arelllano when she was arrested, says that Arellano is staying with a relative in Tijuana, Mexico. Arellano told The Chicago Tribune she believes she has little chance of returning to the United States.

In a phone interview Monday night, Arellano said authorities were in a hurry to deport her because they believed she was threatening to mobilize people to fight for legalization. She says the fight for immigration reform is not over.

"For me the most important thing is that the people who are motivated and that leaders continue to maintain the spirit to continue fighting to defend our people," said Arellano.

Arellano says she will stay in Tijuana for a couple of days then return to her home state of Michoacan.

"God willing, I will continue on with my life. I have some job offers and I am going to see what is best for me," Arellano said.

Standing outside Chicago's immigration offices, Elvira Arellano's supporters warned federal officials that the 32-year-old mother is not giving up even though she lost her battle to stay in the United States with her American-born 8-year-old son.

"Despite where she's at, in Mexico, in the other border, her voice will not be silenced," said Lilia Paredes, immigration activist.

Inside, immigration officials defended their decision to deport Arellano. The illegal Mexican immigrant was arrested in Los Angeles Sunday afternoon after speaking at a church.

"ICE has a sworn duty to ensure that our nation's immigration laws are applied fairly and without regard to a person's ability to generate public support," said Glenn Triveline, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

And Arellano's fight has been very public ever since she chose to seek refuge inside a Humboldt Park church. For the past year, she lived there with her son Saulito until they left Chicago last week for a nationwide campaign to push for new immigration reforms.

ICE officials say it was concerns about safety that prevented them from arresting Arellano at the Chicago church.

"We believed there was going to be a lot of people in the church there to protect her or do whatever. So, the decision was made not to go in there because of safety," Triveline said.

Arellano became an activist after she entered the country illegally twice. In 1997, she was ordered by a federal judge to leave. Arellano went back to Mexico, and then returned, taking a cleaning job at O'Hare. During a post 9/11 sweep, Arellano was arrested and later convicted of using a false Social Security number.

While many say Elvira Arellano is the face of immigration reform, Univision radio host Javier Salas disagrees.

"The media takes her seriously, and no matter what she says, the general opinion is that everybody must think the same because they're Hispanic and undocumented and because they're looking for sanctuary, which is totally wrong," said Salas.

While Salas Strongly believes in immigration reform, he does not believe in Arellano's strategy in achieving reform.

While Arellano's big push is to keep families together, she chose to leave her 8-year-old son with Rev. Walter Coleman after Sunday's arrest.

No word if the 8-year-old will be following his mother to Mexico.

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