Photos from AP
On Tuesday, the 15th of August, Elvira Arellano was supposed to report to the Homeland Security Office in Chicago for deportation back to Mexico. Although there are current bills waiting to be addressed in Washington that would protect her nothing seemed to moving fast enough to allow her to stay here with her seven-year-old son, Saul.
Saul is an American citizen as he was born here. Saul also has a learning disability. Elvira had already been deported once before but she was willing to take the chance again in order to assure that Saul had the best in medical treatment. Believing that the current laws concerning illegal immigrants are oppressive, Elvira hoped to make a change. She became an activist and president of a group called La Familia Latina Unida and began working on reforms that would stop families from being torn apart.
In 2003, Elvira was granted a stay of deportation pending the outcome of a private relief bill in the Senate that would have made her a legal resident. The Bill, however, died. Last year two similar bills were written in the House but have yet to be acted upon.
Knowing that deportation was imminent, Elvira refused to show up at the HSC office. Instead, she sought refuge in her church - a little storefront Methodist Church in the Humboldt Park area on Chicago's West Side. Reluctant to enter a church and forcibly remove Elvira, immigration officials claimed that they would get her sooner or later and that she was no more important than any other illegal immigrant to them.
It is probable that this statement by the immigration officials was more of a smoke-screen than anything else as they really don't want to turn Elvira into a rallying point. Their attempt, however, is not faring too well. Elvira's decision to buck the order of deportation has her supporters sending emails and making phone calls, while others show their support outside of the little church.
Not all people hearing about Arellano's plight, however, are supportive. If it is possible, the actions of Elvira and the Church have served to further polarize the immigration debate that has been raging for months in this country.
Mike McGarry, acting director for the Colorado Alliance for Immigration Reform said that illegal immigrants in this country have children hoping that this will allow them to remain here and called her son Saul an "anchor baby."
Gretchen Reuthling of the New York Times reported that Emma Lozano, director of Centro Sin Fronteras, an advocacy group in Chicago, said that "she became for all of us a symbol of resistance to the unjust, broken laws of this country. This cross that she bears for all the undocumented is because she's been chosen.
Adalberto United Methodist Church sits in the heart of a Hispanic, mostly Puerto Rican, neighborhood. Its' Pastor, Rev. Walter Coleman sees helping Arellano as part of his calling. He told the New York Times, " There's a tradition in this country as well as around the world that governments respect the dignity and the faith of the church and don't trample on that." Im much more afraid of God than I am of Homeland Security."
Many across the country are wondering if Elvira's standoff with the Immigration & Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) will serve to galvanize an already heated movement. Both sides are verbalizing their feelings in very discordant fashion. None, however, have been as strident as shock-jock internet radio host, Hal Turner.
Turner, who has been increasingly violent in his rhetoric of late, has called for men, women, and children to be shot as they come across the border from Mexico and for the assassination of various government officials, posted the following on his website in regard to Ms. Arellano:
LETS DRAG HER OUT BY HER HAIR!
SPIC UNDER DEPORTATION ORDER TAKES REFUGE IN CHURCH
Was deported once already and came back again illegally! Now claims ancient right of "sanctuary." Of course, there is no law preventing government from going in there to get her, but government says they won't.
If she doesn't have to obey the law, then WE don't have to obey the law either. If she can push the government around, the WE can push it around too. I say it's time for VIGILANTE action.
I think that if she doesn't come out on her own by next weekend, I might drive to Chicago and drag her out by her hair. Who's wants to come with me?
Who wants to come with him? Well, his suggestion of "vigilante action" drew several comments from his supporters. These are but a few:
Mike said: "'ll go with you, Hal! I'm in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. That's on the way to Chicago for you. Pick me up. Someone needs to teach these spics, and our own government, a lesson that WE THE PEOPLE will NOT tolerate being pushed around in our OWN FUCKING COUNTRY!"
Nationalist Killer said: "hey im on the way too, im in Michigan! Its too dangerous to pick me up thou, i'll kill the spic whore in the church if necessary."
88 had this to offer: "shell the building with mortar rounds her right to sanctuary can be entombed beneath"
Someone using the name Disgusting Spic Animal had the following pearls of wisdom: "This CAN NOT be allowed. A late night raid into the church is called for here. Most churches now a days don't even speak the word of God. They are pussified and want to get all these filthy spics to reproduce (which I have to admit, they are good at churning out babies) and increase their number of donating members. Money donated to the chruch after it was stolen from a legal citizen!
"Sneak in, TASER her, cuff her and get her out!"
Tommy said: "Hal, gas up the car and point it towards Chicago, I'm in."
And the Pennsylvania Grand Dragon of the IKKKK, Nick Z proclaimed: "Hal I'm in Philly, I'll DEF. come with ya!!!"
Charlie Boy was definitely trying to earn some brownie points when he promised: "I am with you Hal, I'll bring some molotov cocktails."
The idea of the Molotov cocktails had to be one-upped by Scythe who said: "Drag her to the border, load her into a catapult, onager, or similar device, set her on fire, and launch her screaming, burning, spic-ass into Cockroachico as both a lesson and a warning to the rest of those fucking humanoid cockroaches."
To the one lone poster who said "Leave her alone," Hal Turner had this retort: "THAT is exactly the atitude that has gotten us into the mess we're in. NO! I will not leave her alone. Anyone who stands with or in defense of her will get some too. No matter who they are or what position they hold."
Will the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency force their way into the storefront church and extricate Elvira Arellano? They say not, but not too many believe that. Arellano claims that if she is arrested on holy grounds she will know that God wants her to be an example of the hatred and hypocrisy of the current policy of this government.
On the other hand, Rosanna Pulido, director of the Illinois Minuteman Project, told the New York Times ". Shes spewing all this anti-American stuff, Ms. Pulido said. The thing that scares me the most is her defiance, it really does."
Defiance or self-preservation? Right or wrong? The debate rages and Elvira Arellano remains behind the walls of a little church on West Division Street with her seven-year-old son, afraid to leave, and determined to stay in America.
COMMENTARY: It is difficult to write such a story in an unbiased fashion. Looking at the pictures of Elvira Arellano and her precious son, Saul, and hearing her words pull at every mother's heart strings. We all want what is right and just and best for our children. We want those things for our country and future generations to come as well.
Has Elvira Arellano broken the law? Yes she has. And, she has very little legal standing in this fight. Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and a bevy of other activists have broken laws as well. They did so to bring about change to laws that were unfair, unjust, and inhumane. Were they wrong? I submit that even though they broke the law, they were not wrong and history makes that quite clear.
The windows of the church are now covered in letters from supporters who are wishing Elvira well. Among those letters are one from Representative Luis V. Gutierrez, Democrat of Illinois, who introduced the House legislation, and another from Mayor Richard M. Daley.
The growing population of Hispanic people in the United States frightens some. They see this as a threat to the power the white man has so cunningly wielded throughout the ages. This type of racism is based in nothing more than fear and ignorance. And speaking of fear and ignorance, there are those who, like Hal Turner, will attempt to use this situation to bolster their arguments against all non-white peoples. And, unfortunately, there are those who may see Turner's call for vigilante violence as something they want to heed.
Individuals like Hal Turner are nothing more than glory seekers who prey on the angst of others. They realize that what they say can have a very adverse affect on those who are unstable and unable to understand consequences. They bank on that and revel in being the catalyst behind the violence of another much like Matthew Hale did with Ben Smith. Eventually, however, they reap what they sow.
We at Citizens Against Hate and One People's Radio stand behind Elvira Arellano. We believe that there is no such thing as an illegal human being. We believe that Elvira has every right to choose where she wants to live and where she wants to raise her child. We find it curious that there are those who extol the virtues of America, yet cannot understand why a woman would go to such lengths to live here. As citizens of the world, we understand that Earth is a small but complex place and that human rights must be protected at all costs. We urge each and every one of you to let your voice be heard. Contact your Senators and Representatives and enlist their support of Elvira. Contact the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency and tell them to let Elvira remain. And even more importantly, contact the Chicago Police and the FBI at the first indication of violence or violent intent when spewn by the likes of Hal Turner. We further suggest that law-enforcement would be much more efficient if they were to look at Hal Turner as a domestic terrorist and consider those like Arellano the victim. All they have to do is look at both and ask themselves, "WHO'S THE REAL AMERICAN?"
Send you cards and letters to Elvira Arellano at:
ADALBERTO MEMORIAL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
2716 West Division Street
Chicago, IL 60622, (773) 782-8464)
Send your concerns about violence to the Chicago Police Department
Or to the Federal Bureau of Investigation:
2111 West Roosevelt Road
Chicago, Illinois 60608