Elvira Arellano was deported on August 20, 2007 for living in the U.S. illegally. After evading a deportation order she took refuge at the United Methodist Church of Adaberto on Division Street, in Chicago, where she remained for 12 months.
She was arrested in Los Angeles by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) agents, when she went to lecture at the church Our Lady Queen of Angels. Her son Saul remained in the U.S. but later on he joined his mother in Mexico.
On August 29, 2007, Elvira Arellano asked Mexican President Felipe Calderon to request the U.S. government for a special visa to visit her son, and called for assistance to the 600,000 Mexican mothers who are in similar circumstances, as well as the 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
On February 9, 2008, Elvira Arellano was denied entry into Canada where she was scheduled to arrive in Vancouver to speak at a public forum on Sanctuary and Migrant Justice on Sunday Feb 10th and to join the U.S.-based Marcha Migrante on February 12 at the border.
Elvira Arellano has been unable to return to U.S. and she lives in the Mexican state of Michoacan, where she has created the organization La Familia Latina Unida - Sin Fronteras (Latina Family United - Without Borders), which supports families divided by mass deportations in the U.S. and Central American immigrants detained or affected by the violence in Mexico.
On March 18, 2014, she presented herself to U.S. Border Patrol officials at the Otay Mesa border crossing in San Diego, California, where she requested asylum in the United States.
Arellano entered the United States illegally in 1997 and was apprehended and deported back to Mexico by the United States government. She returned within days and lived illegally for three years in Oregon. In 1999, she gave birth to a son, Saul Arellano, whose father remains unnamed by Elvira. Saul is a United States citizen. In 2000, Arellano moved to Chicago and worked as a cleaning woman at O'Hare International Airport. In 2002, following a post-September 11 security sweep, she was arrested and convicted of Social Security fraud. Arellano was ordered to appear before immigration authorities on August 15, 2006. On that date she took refuge in the Adalberto United Methodist church in the Humboldt Park area of Chicago, which maintained it was a sanctuary for illegal aliens. Before that, she sought safe haven for a year in Amor De Dios United Methodist Church with Pastor José S. Landaverde, who begun the new immigrant sanctuary movement in Illinois.
On November 14, 2006, in Mexico City, Saul Arellano appeared before the Congress of Mexico. The Mexican lawmakers passed a resolution to urge the United States government to suspend the deportation of Arellano and other parents of children who are United States citizens.
She was arrested on August 19, 2007 in Los Angeles. Within hours of her arrest Arellano was repatriated to Mexico by U.S. federal agents in compliance with an existing deportation order. She was accompanied to the Mexican border by an official of the Mexican consulate in San Diego, California, as well as by agents of the U.S. government.
Arellano says that she should not have to choose between leaving her US citizen child in the U.S. or taking him to Mexico.  Critics of Arellano counter that she is exploiting her son in order to remain in the United States. Latino advocates have highlighted this case as one of civil rights. Arellano's claim of a "right of sanctuary" and a claim to stay in the United States has been taken up by Latino advocate groups such as National Alliance for Immigrants' Rights, NCLR, LULAC, among others. In support, La Placita, a historic Los Angeles church, declared itself a sanctuary for any undocumented immigrant facing deportation, something it did during the 1980s for the first refugees from war-ridden Guatemala and El Salvador who escaped to California.
The U.S. government's position is that Arellano is free to take Saul with her to Mexico in order to keep her family together. Prior to Arrellano's deportation, the U.S. government also noted that there is no claim to sanctuary in a church under U.S. law.
Upon her return to Mexico Arellano stated that "the United States is the one who broke the law first. By letting people cross over [the border] without documents. By letting people pay taxes. . . ." These comments led to criticism because this statement is very similar to those made by anti-immigration groups in the United States.
On May 3, 2007, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), introduced H.R. 2182, which would grant legal immigrant status, with the possibility of applying for permanent residence status, to Arellano as well as 33 other people. The bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary and (as of August 2007) has yet to move out of the committee.
- Illegal immigration to the United States
- Mexican American
- Birthright citizenship in the United States of America
- Sanctuary Movement history on New Sanctuary Movement page
- Elvira Arellano, who fought deportation from Chicago church, asks for US asylum
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- GovTrack: H.R. 2182: Text of Legislation