Undocumented Woman Who Sought Refuge in Chicago Church Re-Enters US, Asks for Asylum

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  • Elvira Arellano
    (REUTERS/IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT/HANDOUT)
    In this booking photo released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Elvira Arellano is shown after her arrest in Los Angeles August 19, 2007. Arellano, a Mexican woman whose fight against deportation from the United States became a cause celebre for pro-immigration activists, was deported without her son
By Jessica Martinez, CP Reporter
March 19, 2014|2:50 pm

Elvira Arellano, an undocumented Mexican woman who crossed into the United States Tuesday, is asking the government for asylum on humanitarian grounds after she was deported in 2007.

Arellano led a group of deported young adults – who are from Mexico and Central America but were raised in the U.S.– across the border and into San Diego as part of an effort organized by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance. Despite the repercussions of re-entering the country illegally, they intend to protest against deportations and U.S. immigration laws.

"I am requesting asylum in the U.S. on humanitarian grounds, because I am a defender of human rights in Mexico and I have received kidnapping and violence threats," Arellano said, according to The Associated Press. "But more importantly, because they have separated my son for his chance to have a good upbringing."

In order to be granted asylum, Arellano's claim that she faces violent threats in Mexico would have be further investigated, since asylum is usually granted to people seeking protection because they have suffered persecution or fear that they will suffer persecution due to race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political opinion.

Arellano made headlines back in 2007 when she was deported after seeking refuge at Adalberto United Methodist Church in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago, where she remained for nearly a year. She was deported without her U.S.-born son, who eventually reunited with her in Mexico.

Most of the individuals who accompanied Arellano back into the U.S. are in their 20s, who say they would have been allowed to stay and attend college legally if Congress had passed the 2010 Dream Act. However, some are parents, just like Arellano, who are seeking to return to the U.S. without legal documents, accompanied by their U.S. citizen children.

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Now, with her 15-year-old son and a 4-month-old born in Mexico at her side, Arellano also hopes to get President Barack Obama's attention.

"Obama has to stop the deportations and allow us to be with our families. … I know I'm risking my freedom and being with my children because I could go to prison, but I will fight to be with my children," she said.

Arellano was initially arrested in 2002 during an immigration sweep at O'Hare International Airport where she was earning $6.50 an hour for cleaning planes. She was sentenced to three years probation for Social Security fraud and in 2007, was named a person of the year by TIME magazine for staying within the Chicago church, invoking the traditional protection of sanctuary, after failing to receive legal amnesty.

It has not yet been determined if Arellano and the others will be deported to Mexico, or allowed to stay.

 

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