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Latina Lista: News from the Latinx perspective > Palabra Final > Immigration > Sanctuary-Seeking Immigrant, Elvira Arellano, Says It’s Time to Start a Real Dialogue

Sanctuary-Seeking Immigrant, Elvira Arellano, Says It’s Time to Start a Real Dialogue

LatinaLista — Yesterday was the three-month anniversary of Elvira Arellano’s stay in a Chicago-area church seeking sanctuary from deportation to Mexico.

During these three months, Elvira dare not leave the church because then she would be fair game for immigration officials to pick her up. Though immigration officials confess they have every legal right to march into the church now and take Elvira into custody, they don’t.

The ill will that such a move would generate would be far worse — a public relations fiasco — than letting one undocumented mother essentially stay under self-imposed “house arrest.”

Elvira claims not to be doing this for herself but for her 7-year-old son Saul and the over 3 million other children who are American citizens but whose parents face deportation because of their illegal status.


Elvira Arellano and her 7-year-old Saul
(Source: Somos un Pueblo)

Because Elvira cannot travel, Saul has taken his mother’s place as the face of these families who are caught in political limbo.

Until this week, Saul had never been to Mexico – the land where his mother was born and where his grandparents and tios live in the poor village of San Miguel Curahuango, Michoacán.

Saul went to Mexico to plead his mother’s case. His efforts were rewarded with Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies unanimously approving a resolution calling on the United States to suspend Elvira’s deportation, and those of other undocumented parents.

Today, Saul was to go before the Mexican Senate and ask the same.

It is very easy to criticize using Saul in this way, which is clearly a political strategy to gain sympathy, and I have gone on record at Latina Lista condemning Saul’s participation.

But with each new U.S. town joining the list of those that are passing ordinances intent on driving out the undocumented, it is clear that U.S. lawmakers don’t understand the scope of who comprises a good portion of the undocumented — the families.

Clearly, one more adult speaking out on behalf of the undocumented is not going to make an impact.

So, it will (unfortunately) be the children, like Saul.

From behind the walls of the church that have served as her sanctuary, Elvira spoke eloquently with Latina Lista by telephone about her feelings, the pride she feels for her son and where she thinks the future will take them.

I remain very positive and have much faith that everything will be resolved. I will continue to stay and fight, not just for Saulito and me but for all the other children who risk being separated from their parents.

What the Mexican legislators did this week by passing the resolution was not an attempt to interfere or tell the United States what to do. But it was a way to start a dialogue, to begin looking for a resolution to not just what is happening to me but to the millions of other families whose parents are undocumented and threatened with deportation.

That the Mexican legislators passed this resolution unanimously says something, even if it’s symbolic. Since they are known not to agree on very many things.

On the one hand, I am happy that Saulito is having this experience and getting the opportunity to get to know the country of his family roots. But on the other hand, it makes me very sad that he has to travel to another country to ask for help for me.

When Saulito first got there (Mexico), I asked him how he liked it. He said he didn’t like it. I asked him why, and he said there were too many poor people. It made me laugh that he would say such a thing. If he had said that he liked it and wanted to stay there then I would say let’s go, but he said he wanted to come home because this is where his school and all his friends are.

How much longer will 7-year-olds be the face of the illegal immigration debate?

Until it is recognized that they are very much a part of the debate too.

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