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Latino mother defies deportation order

By Reverend Walter Coleman | Last updated: Aug 29, 2006 - 12:49:00 AM

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Elvira Arellano comforts her son, Saulito, 7, during a large vigil in front of the Immigration Office in downtown Chicago, Ill. August 14. Photo: Kenneth Muhammad

CHICAGO ( - A tidal wave of support has spread throughout the country and, indeed, internationally throughout Latin America since Elvira Arellano took her courageous stand against this country’s unjust immigration laws.

On the morning of Aug.15, instead of reporting for deportation as ordered by the Department of Homeland Security, Elvira asked for and received sanctuary from her church, the Adalberto United Methodist Church here.

Like millions of other families in this country with U.S. citizen children born to an undocumented parent, Elvira has been fighting for three years to remain in this country with her son Saul, who is now seven years old.

There are over 3.1 million children, by conservative estimates, that are in the same situation as Saul. She was arrested in her home during “Operation Tarmac” by Homeland Security during the raids on O’Hare Airport employees in their search for terrorists.

Elvira’s case is different in that she has courageously fought not only for herself, but for all of her people. Joining with Pueblo Sin Fronteras and its president, Emma Lozano, she founded La Familia Latina Unida (the United Latino Family) to fight for family unity. She also recently led a successful hunger strike for 22 days to pressure a stay of 26 workers for IFCO Sytems who were under threat of deportation.

La Familia Latina Unida, Elvira Arellano and Emma Lozano were active participants in the Millions More Movement. In fact, Ms. Lozano spoke at the Million Family March in 2000, noting that the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan was the first national Black leader to understand and support the just struggle of the undocumented in this country.

Ms. Lozano points out that, “Everyone from the President to the senators to the congressmen recognize that we have a broken immigration law in this country.”

Unfortunately, a few powerful Republicans in Congress have blockaded efforts to pass new legislation. They have also pressured President George Bush to triple the enforcement efforts of Homeland Security so that thousands have already faced raids, arrests, deportations and separation of families in the recent months.

La Familia Latina Unida has demanded an immediate moratorium on all raids, arrests, deportations, separation of families and sanctions until the broken law is fixed.

“Everyone in this nation broke the law, but only the undocumented and their children are being punished for it,” Ms. Lozano insists.

Earlier this year, La Familia Latina Unida traveled to the Dominican Republic for the Organization of American States conference, where they found overwhelming support from the Haitian, Dominican and the Caribbean and Latin American community.

“This nation’s unfair economic policies have impoverished the Caribbean and Latin America, forcing people to travel north in order to survive. They let them come in, because they worked hard for low wages. They let them build their communities, their churches and pay their taxes,” Ms. Lozano argued. “Now, like Pharoah, they are afraid because of our numbers. They do not want this nation to absorb another 20 million people of color. They do not want the electorate to be infused with another 20 million people of color that might side with people of color throughout the world.”

As for Elvira, she is a person that relies on her faith in God. “I don’t care if they put me in jail for 10 or for 20 years. I don’t care how long I have to live in sanctuary. I know God is with me. I know my people are with me.”

Congressman Luis Gutierrez and Mayor Richard Daley have both written letters to the White House, urging Pres. Bush to grant a stay against her deportation. She had received several stays already because of bills pending on her behalf introduced by Congressman Gutierrez and Congressman Bobby Rush.

So far, Homeland Security has not responded. They have, however, backed off their earlier threat to break into the church and arrest her. A “source” in Homeland Security has been quoted in the mainstream press saying that they have now decided not to break into the church, although they still consider her a fugitive.

“I am not a fugitive. I am not a terrorist. I am not a criminal,” Elvira maintains. “I am a mother.”