The Case of Elvira Arellano

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Lee Sustar/Socialist Worker (also in Counterpunch)//[[August 31, 2006]]/ link

...A given day (at the church where she's holed up) might see elected officials, diplomats from the Venezuelan consulate, journalists from the New York Times or European national radio services, or representatives of the Latino and left-wing press.

...Meanwhile, Arellano's son Saul, who has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, was in the corner behind the pulpit, slowly turning a sign that read, "Stop The Racist Deportations!"

..."I'm not the only one affected. I'm part of the struggle for the legalization," she said in an interview at the National Immigrant Rights Strategy Convention, held just outside Chicago, a couple days before she began her vigil August 15...

It isn't the first time that the border has divided Arellano's family. Her grandfather was a guest worker in the bracero program, a system which brought "temporary" Mexican workers into the U.S. to do agricultural labor from 1942 to 1964.

...Working with the veteran Chicago Latina organizer Emma Lozano of Centro Sin Fronteras, she founded the group La Familia Latina Unida. Its aim is providing assistance for the families of an estimated 5 million children of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Of those kids, an estimated 3.1 million are U.S.-born, and therefore are citizens.

...The reality is that only in rare cases do the undocumented avoid a deportation order because they have U.S.-born children, according to Subhash Kateel, a founder of Families for Freedom, a New York-based group formed after the September 11, 2001 attacks to fight the subsequent wave of deportations in an effort to keep immigrant families together.

...Members of the Nation of Islam regularly come to the Adalberto Church to support Arellano's vigil.

...In fact, said Beti Guevara, associate pastor at Adalberto, Arellano first learned about Parks at a memorial service held for her last October at Chicago's Beloved Community Christian Church, where U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) is pastor. The keynote speaker was Mary Mitchell (who wrote a negative column about EA). "Elvira learned Rosa Parks 101 from Mary Mitchell," Guevara said.

Just days after Mitchell's column appeared, Clergy Speaks Interdenominational, a group of leading Black clergy, visited Adalberto to pray with Arellano. Rush, who first rose to prominence as a leader of the local Black Panther Party in the 1960s, has also publicly supported Arellano.

OTHER LEADING Democratic politicians' letters of support for Arellano are displayed prominently all over Adalberto Church.

There's a letter to immigration authorities from Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the son of a Serbian immigrant, who's facing a tough reelection campaign, backing Arellano and others in a similar plight.

There's also a letter from Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, who's tried to refuel his father's Democratic Party machine with the help of loyalists in the Hispanic Democratic Organization--although some of these backers currently face corruption charges.

There are several letters from Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the city's most prominent Latino politician. An activist in the Puerto Rican community before entering electoral politics, Gutierrez years ago assumed the role of advocate for Chicago's burgeoning Latino community.

...Conspicuous by its absence are letters from Illinois' liberal Democratic senators, Dick Durbin and Barack Obama--themselves the sons of immigrants, as they often point out in speeches at immigrant rights rallies.

Durbin, who earlier sponsored a private bill to delay Arellano's deportation because of her son's medical condition, now refuses to support Gutierrez's private bill to win her a new stay. "We cannot fix the injustices of this system with private bills," Durbin said in a statement. "Only comprehensive immigration reform can permanently remedy this situation."

Obama made took a similar line. "I don't feel comfortable carving out an exception for one person when there are hundreds of thousands of people just in the Chicago region alone who would want a similar exemption," he said in a speech.