Posted on February 6, 2022

Immigrant Couple Returns to Mexico to Retire After 3 Decades of Working in Chicago

Laura Rodríguez Presa, Chicago Tribune, January 26, 2022

On his last Friday in the United States, Francisco Arellano spent the evening the same way he had spent many evenings for over 30 years: surrounded by his family, drinking some tequila and eating pambazos.

After he bought his home in Chicago, it turned into the family hub where everyone gathered for special occasions and holidays. The family is so big that he set up a white tarp canopy in the backyard and connected it to the garage to ensure that the space was large enough for the gatherings.

But the last reunion was different. The usual laughter and chatter were accompanied by tears and hugs as loved ones said goodbye to Arellano and his wife, Teresa Ruiz de Arellano.

The two returned to their beloved Michoacan state in Mexico permanently after living in Chicago for over 30 years. They had crossed the border to the U.S. without permission and could not return — not even when each of their fathers passed away — for fear of losing the opportunity to give their children a fruitful future.

“Despite the pain of being away from my mother and losing my father, it was all worth it,” Arellano, now 55, said in Spanish on a phone call from his hometown, Maravatio, in Michoacan. {snip}

Arellano said he wanted to make sure he returned to Mexico while still healthy and young enough to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Thanks to his arduous work — which won’t provide luxury, but enough to get by comfortably — he was able to do that.

“I really longed to see my mom, spend time with her, before I lose her too,” he added. “It’s a dream of many undocumented people.”

On Jan. 15, Arellano and his wife departed to Morelia, Mexico, from Chicago’s Midway Airport with no return ticket.


While many immigrants who live in this country without permission long to return, few can, for different reasons. For some, saving money and building equity is difficult because they hold low-paying jobs due to their immigration status and often live paycheck to paycheck. Others end up establishing family roots in the country and want to raise their children first.

“I know a lot of undocumented people that want to return but either don’t want or know how to save money,” Arellano said. “Others are fearful to invest, or to buy a house because of their status.”

Arellano bought his house in 2000, after saving money for the down payment by working as a roofer for a large company and filing his taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, a number assigned by the IRS to taxpayers who live in the country without authorization.


The three youngest children, including Francisco Jr., are citizens; the two oldest daughters have deportation protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. They were brought to the United States by Arellano and his wife when they were toddlers.


Over the years, the Arellano family had held hope that there would be immigration reform that would lead to legalization for Arellano and his wife, but “I couldn’t keep waiting anymore,” Francisco Arellano said. Now they hope that at least there’s reform to permanently fix the immigration status of their two oldest daughters.