Eight years after she captured the nation’s attention by holing up in a Humboldt Park church to escape deportation, Elvira Arellano is back in Chicago, at the same church.
On Sunday she again took up residence at Adalberto United Methodist Church, 2176 W. Division St. where she first took sanctuary in 2006.
She again hopes to refocus attention on changing immigration laws to ease the plight of families who are torn apart by deportation.
This time, circumstances are different. She is free to come and go, at least temporarily, without fear of being detained for being here illegally.
Arellano, was part of a group of activists who were detained while trying to enter the United States from Mexico last week.
“They walked through a legal crossing point where border patrol detained everyone,” said her attorney, Chris Bergin. “She was carrying her four-month-old son. That probably factored into why they didn’t want to hold her in jail for too long. But I also imagine there was pressure from Washington DC, because her case was, and still is, high profile,” Bergin said.
Arellano, 39, was released from custody and allowed to return to Chicago to await a hearing where she will be allowed to plead her case as to why she should be allowed to stay in the United States. Bergin said she plans to apply for political asylum or a humanitarian visa. “She’s been receiving death threats in Mexico because of her human-rights work there,” Bergin said.
Arellano arrived in Chicago via Midway airport Sunday morning with her sons: a teenager who is a U.S. citizen and a Mexico-born baby.
Reached Sunday night, Arellano, who will be staying at the church indefinitely, said she planned to attend an immigration rally being planned this week in downtown Chicago. She also said she planned to try to find a job and get her teenage son back in school as soon as possible.
“I want to continue to learn English and find a job, any job,” Arellano said through a translator.
Arellano is protesting the separation of families through deportation. She wants President Barack Obama to extend deferments he gave, under the DREAM Act, to children and parents of U.S. citizen children.
After taking sanctuary at the Chicago church she fled to California in 2007 and was deported to Mexico. She has had a federal deportation order against her since 2002. She was first deported from the United States in 1997 after attempting to cross the border with fake papers. She illegally re-entered the country and was arrested in December 2002 while working at O’Hare International Airport under a false Social Security number.
Contributing: Associated Press