Joined: Sat May 29, 2004 11:46 pm
|Activist Refuses Deportation, Takes Refuge in Church
The Chicago Tribune
Tuesday 15 August 2006
Taking refuge in a church, a prominent advocate for illegal immigrants publicly defied federal authorities in Chicago who were trying to deport her Tuesday.
Elvira Arellano, who became a national spokeswoman for families facing deportation, had been ordered to report to the Department of Homeland Security by 9 a.m.
Instead, Arellano appeared at the pulpit of Adalberto United Methodist Church in the Humboldt Park neighborhood, vowing before dozens of supporters that she would not return to Mexico "like a coward." She said she would stay in the church indefinitely with her 7-year-old son, a U.S. citizen.
Arellano's move, which apparently took many of her supporters by surprise, recalled the 1980s sanctuary movement, in which many liberal congregations around the U.S. took in illegal immigrants who were fleeing war in Central America.
Her supporters invoked the notion that lawbreakers can be protected in a house of worship, a tradition that dates to the ancient Greeks.
"If Homeland Security chooses to send agents to a holy place, I would know that God wants me to serve as an example of the hatred and hypocrisy of the current administration," Arellano said.
But defying the order also puts Arellano, 31, at risk of even stiffer punishment, including detention.
Because Arellano ignored her deportation order, officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said she is now considered a fugitive. Spokesman Tim Counts said agents have the authority to go into a church or anywhere else to make an arrest.
"We will take action at the time and place of our choosing," Counts said.
Legal experts agree that a church offers no formal protection, but they say it could put the government in an awkward position.
"Just because you are in a church doesn't mean you are less deportable in a legal sense," said Joel Fetzer, associate
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