Illegal Immigrant Fights to Stay in U.S. With Son

Oscar Avila, Chicago Tribune, Aug. 9, 2006

A woman who has become one of Chicago’s most visible advocates for illegal immigrants now faces deportation herself.

A woman who has become one of Chicago’s most visible advocates for illegal immigrants now faces deportation herself.

Elvira Arellano, who was arrested in 2002 during an immigration sweep at O’Hare International Airport, has received a letter from the Department of Homeland Security to report to its downtown Chicago offices Tuesday. Immigration officials say they intend to deport her to Mexico as soon as that day.

Arellano had received a stay of deportation after church leaders, immigrant advocates and others had rallied public support for her case.

She received backing from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, both Democrats from Illinois, and other elected officials.

“I realize time is running out,” said Arellano, 31. “I am nervous. I am practically shaking.”

Arellano took to the radio airwaves Tuesday morning to help urge Hispanic listeners to mobilize around her again. Other supporters were calling elected officials to see if they could intervene.


The outcry comes for a woman who was an anonymous single mother working as a cleaner when immigration agents arrested her in 2002. Coming soon after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the U.S. government was working to secure the nation’s aviation system.

But Arellano often told crowds that she was no terrorist, and she became a poster child for the state’s 400,000 illegal immigrants.

She also faced passionate criticism with many calling her arrogant for demanding favorable treatment even though she broke the law.

Arellano received a stay of deportation that allowed her to care for her son, a U.S. citizen who suffers from ADHD and other health problems. She helped found a group called United Latino Family, which lobbies for families with undocumented parents and U.S. citizen children.


Deborah Achim, Chicago field office director for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Office of Detention and Removal, said the U.S. government has no basis to extend Arellano’s stay unless Congress requests it.


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