Despite deportation, Arellano supporters fight to keep families together

CHICAGO – With the “moral voice” of the immigrant rights movement deported to Tijuana, Mexico, supporters of Elvira Arellano expressed their outrage at an emergency rally at the Department of Homeland Security here Aug. 20.

In deporting Arellano the Bush administration forcibly separated her from her 8-year-old son Saulito, a U.S. citizen. Both have lived in a sanctuary church in the Humboldt Park neighborhood for the past year in response to a deportation order.

“Elvira Arellano is not a criminal or a terrorist. She is a mother and a worker,” declared Chicago Alderman Ricardo Muñoz.

“Elvira is a symbol of the government failure to take responsibility for the unjust laws against undocumented workers. Thirteen million undocumented workers leave for work each day not knowing if they will return home. We will not allow the federal government to intimidate our communities,” said Muñoz.

Speakers denounced the hypocrisy of the Bush administration, which promotes the “sanctity of family values.” Arellano is seen as the symbol of over 3 million families of undocumented workers who have U.S. born children.

“This is only one,” said Jose Artemio Areola of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “Each day more will be separated. What has happened to our society?”

Vowing not to give up the fight to bring Arellano back to the United States and reunite her with Saulito, speakers also called for a moratorium on all raids, deportations and splitting up of families and immediate congressional action to reform immigration laws. “We can’t wait for the 2008 elections,” said Areola.

“The immigrant community and working people are under crisis and attack at this moment. We stand in solidarity with Elvira Arellano and her son,” declared Ramon Becerra, chair of Chicago Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. “We can’t stand for this oppression,” he said and pledged LCLAA’s support for all working men and women.

Calling Arellano the “moral voice of the movement,” Emma Lozano, leader of Centro Sin Fronteras, spoke to the rally by phone. Lozano was with Arellano when she was detained in Los Angeles. She urged blitzing of elected officials with phone calls, especially Illinois Senators. Richard Durbin and Barack Obama and support for a “Day Without An Immigrant” action on Sept. 12. The action will include a boycott of work, school and shopping and a mass protest in Washington DC.

Several speakers emphasized the threat to keeping families together was not just a problem in the Mexican immigrant community. On June 8, Janina Wasilewski, an undocumented Polish worker, was deported to Poland despite protest and widespread publicity of her case. Wasilewski’s son is also a U.S. citizen and was forced to leave the country to be with his mother. He is currently having difficulties registering for school because he is not a Polish citizen.

Wasilewski’s husband Tony came to the rally to give his support to Arellano and her son. He told the crowd “the community needs to support each other.” Tony Wasilewski is currently seeking U.S. citizenship and is fighting to bring his wife and son back.

Young Sun Song of the Korean American Cultural Center said the current immigration laws were also hurting many in the Asian community, where there are many undocumented workers. “This is a human rights issue,” she said.

After the press conference a march took place to Obama’s office to seek support for a bill allowing Arellano to return to the country. U.S. Congressmen Luis Gutierrez and Bobby Rush have already entered similar bills in Congress.