Arellano, 31, a former airplane cleaner, has lived in the United States since 1997. FBI agents arrested her at home in December 2002 as part of a raid against workers at OHare airport for allegedly using false Social Security numbers.
In response, Arellano and her supporters launched a public campaign for her right to live and work here, which gained broad support in Illinois and beyond. She was then granted three one-year stays of deportation. In August 2006, when her last stay ended, she was ordered to report for deportation. Instead, Arellano took sanctuary in the church. She said her action was also aimed at helping to stop deportations of all immigrants.
On December 26, neighbors of the church reported that they saw U.S. marshals taking pictures of the front and back of the building. Suspecting that the immigration police might be preparing to raid the place, Centro Sin Fronteras, the immigrant rights group that organizes Arellanos defense campaign, called a press conference.
When this reporter visited the church December 28, three TV stations were there to interview Arellano. One reporter asked if she thought the government would carry out a raid during the holidays. Speaking in Spanish, Arellano replied, Immigration is capable of that. Just look at what they did on the Day of the Virgin Guadalupethey carried out many raids and arrested 1,300 people. And on Christmas Eve they arrested and deported Martín Barrios, referring to a worker seized in Chicago. The Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a major Mexican holiday.
Tim Counts, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, told the Chicago Sun-Times, We estimate there are more than 660,000 fugitives [in the United States] and she is one of them. He said she would be deported at the appropriate place and time. Police officials denied they were conducting an investigation at the church.
A Pew Hispanic Center report states that 2 million families in the United States have some members who are undocumented.
Arellanos son Saúl leaves the church regularly to go to school, but she hasnt stepped outside since August 15. Opponents of immigrant rights have criticized Arellano because her son has traveled to Washington, Miami, Los Angeles, and Mexico to gain support for his mothers case and for the fight to stop the separation of immigrant families.
Those who criticize me now didnt say anything when the immigration police came to my door, forced their way in and arrested me in front of my son, who was then four years old, she said.
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