U.S. Deports Sanctuary Movement's Symbol
Tuesday, August 21, 2007; 2:06 AM
TIJUANA, Mexico -- An illegal immigrant who took refuge in a Chicago church for a year to avoid being separated from her American-born son was deported from the United States to Mexico, where she vowed Monday to continue her campaign to change U.S. immigration laws.
Elvira Arellano, 32, became an activist and a national symbol for illegal immigrant parents as she defied her deportation order and spoke out from her sanctuary. She announced last week that she was leaving the Adalberto United Methodist Church to try to lobby U.S. lawmakers.
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.
"They were in a hurry to deport me because they saw that I was threatening to mobilize and organize the people to fight for legalization," Arellano said in Spanish outside a Tijuana apartment building where she was staying with a friend. "I have a fighting spirit and I'm going to continue fighting."
Arellano, who said she is a single mother, left her 8-year-old son, Saul, in the care of Coleman's family. They were reunited Monday afternoon in Tijuana, but Arellano said her son would be going back to Chicago to live with his godmother and begin third grade in a public school.
"We've all been living together. He knows his mom is OK. He's going to be sad sometimes," said the godmother, Emma Lozano, who drove him from Los Angeles to Tijuana.
She also said the boy may tour the U.S. to promote migrant rights. The little boy declined to talk to a reporter.
Mexican authorities did not know the identity or whereabouts of the boy's father, said Luis Cabrera, Mexico's general consul in San Diego.
Arellano asked to speak with Mexican officials in Los Angeles but was denied, Cabrera said. She was not given access until hours later, at San Diego's Otay Mesa immigration detention center.
Mexico's Foreign Relations Department issued a statement saying that denying Arellano access to the consulate may have violated "bilateral arrangements established for a safe and orderly repatriation and to allow for immediate consulate access when the defense requests it."
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was unaware of any request that Arellano made to speak with Mexican officials in Los Angeles, and Arellano was given extensive access in San Diego Sunday night, agency spokeswoman Lauren Mack said.
Arellano was deported at San Diego's San Ysidro border crossing around 10 p.m. PDT after U.S. authorities determined that she had exhausted her legal recourse.