August 24, 2007


The significance of the Elvira Arellano deportation

The Elvira Arellano situation is really no different than millions of others in the United States: An illegal worker in the United States trying to keep her family together in the U.S. Her son is eight now and a citizen of the States. Where the difference lies is that Elvira chose to seek sanctuary in a Methodist church in Chicago.

For over a year now Elvira has lived her life on church grounds with her son. Her sanctuary case was the first since the 1980’s. It also took place during the heated debate on Capitol Hill where legislators debated a new immigration policy, Minutemen were attracting much attention, and millions of immigrants marched through the streets in our nations cities. The Elvira sanctuary case attracted its fair share attention during the year. On February 16 of this year La Prensa San Diego published a story on her sanctuary case.

Elvira was not a naive young mother caught up in the moment when she sought sanctuary. She was a woman who had been deported before and had helped create an immigrant rights group “La Familia Latina Unida.” She used her situation as a symbol to call for a moratorium on ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids and deportations, and to fixing immigration law.

This month she left her sanctuary in Chicago and traveled to Los Angeles. After leaving Our Lady Queen of Angels Church on historic Olvera Street, where she talked on the immigration reform movement, she was arrested and deported. Her arrest did not come as a surprise to her.

Elvira Arellano has become a symbol of principal and a hero for the Mexican immigrant.

More than this though, is the emergence of the Hispanic community taking a stand on principal, on political issues, and being accountable. Elvira Arellano is just one such example. The immigrant marches held last year are another. The presence of a viable Hispanic candidate, Bob Richardson, in the Presidential race is a step forward. And, the same week that Arellano was arrested Los Amigos of Orange County presented 5000 signatures to the register of voters to oust a controversial Anaheim school trustee who “is really seeking to do harm to all Latinos,” stated one of the organizers of the recall effort. The organized effort by war veterans protesting and boycotting the PBS showing WWII documentary “The War” which demonstrates a clear bias against Hispanics is also another example of Hispanics stepping forward. These are all actions of a community that is growing and becoming involved.

The saga of Elvira Arellano will fade away. What will be left behind will be another step in the process of becoming engaged in the political process, being a part of the conversation on issues, and by taking action the Hispanic community is having an impact on the process and holding our political representatives accountable for their actions. Through these actions the long slumbering political giant will finally shake off the doldrums and we will see a change that will include the Hispanic community as equal partners in society.

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