Sophia Tareen, AP, September 30, 2006
Chicago — An immigration activist who took refuge in a church after the government ordered her deported to Mexico said Saturday she will remain holed up there, even though a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit filed on her behalf.
The lawsuit against the government had contended that deporting Arellano would effectively deport her son Saul, who is a U.S. citizen, and would violate his rights. U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve ruled Friday that although the 7-year-old would face hardships, they weren’t of constitutional magnitude.
Arellano, 31, and her son have been living at the Adalberto United Methodist Church since mid-August.
“I want to stay here with my son,” Arellano said in Spanish to reporters at the church. “I’m not just fighting for my situation. … You can’t separate families.”
The Rev. Walter L. Coleman, the Adalberto pastor who sued in August on the woman’s behalf, said he and Arellano are in contact with other families in similar situations and are considering filing a class-action lawsuit, he said.
Coleman said he is not concerned that federal officials will enter the church to remove Arellano.
She first was arrested in 1997 soon after crossing into the United States and was sent back to Mexico.
She returned and was arrested again in 2002 and convicted of working as a cleaning woman at O’Hare International Airport under a false Social Security number.
The 7-year-old son of a Chicago woman fighting deportation to Mexico traveled to Washington, D.C., Monday, hoping to persuade President George Bush to intervene on the woman’s behalf.
Since mid-August, Elvira Arellano has taken refuge in Adalberto United Methodist Church in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, living there with her son, Saul, to avoid deportation.
Saul, a U.S. citizen, is visiting the nation’s capital with members of the Chicago immigration rights group, Centro Sin Fronteras, hoping to deliver a letter to the White House, said Robert Lopez, director of the organization’s legal program.
Saul Arellano plans to hold a news conference Tuesday and will then try to deliver the letter to the president, Lopez said.
“He’s requesting a meeting with President Bush and asking for his mother to be allowed to stay here in this country,” Lopez said. Saul Arellano’s letter also hopes to make the president aware of the dozens of other children who are losing their parents to deportation, Lopez added.
This was not Saul Arellano’s first cross-country trip on behalf of his mother. Last month, Emma Lozano, the executive director of Centro Sin Fronteras, took him to the National Latino Congress in Los Angeles, hoping to build legal support and media attention.
Centro Sin Fronteras had planned for some time to take Saul Arellano to Washington, hoping to draw the president’s attention, Lopez said.