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  • 27


     
    The Fallout from a Deportation
    Immigration; Posted on: 2007-08-22 13:10:45 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
    "Sanctuary Movement" in turmoil

    Elvira Arellano, like many other advocates for immigration reform, must have been frustrated. There hadn't been a hint of Congressional action on comprehensive immigration reform since the Senate compromise collapsed in late spring. In early August, the Bush Administration moved unilaterally to stiffen enforcement, with Department of Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff announcing more fines and penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegals as well as an increased border crackdown.

    So Arellano, an undocumented immigrant who had spent a year holed up at Chicago's Adalberto United Methodist Church while defying a deportation order, made a risky move: she emerged from the storefront church, drove from Chicago to Los Angeles, and gave a series of very public speeches over the weekend. By Monday, the 32-year-old single mother was in Tijuana, having been arrested and deported in one fell swoop.

    The news buoyed opponents of illegal immigration, who have long had Arellano in their sights. There had been rumors of citizens' arrests or other Minutemen-style interventions once word spread that Arellano was planning to leave her sanctuary, where the feds typically will not try to arrest illegal immigrants. But the fact that the normally supine federal government did the job for them made the news even sweeter. "Elvira felt entitled to special treatment," says Bob Dane, press secretary of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, which favors tougher border security and enforcement. "She had a mistaken impression that the U.S., unlike any other country on the planet, isn't interested in enforcing its immigration laws."

    But Arellano was not just another person facing deportation, and her personal setback may not turn out to be the harbinger of victory that activists like Dane hope it to be. She was the pro-immigrant caucus's poster alien, their best chance to highlight the cruelty of the current status quo. Her deportation will effectively separate her from her American-born son, Saul, 8, at least temporarily. While his mother was living at the church, it was Saul who represented her case at rallies and events around the country, and he is now in the care of the Chicago church's pastor and his wife. Arellano's allies hope that the story of the family's separation will put a face on the millions facing deportation.

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