Activist arrested in L.A.
Deported to Tijuana, pastor says
By Antonio Olivo | Tribune staff reporter
5:29 AM CDT, August 20, 2007
LOS ANGELES - Federal authorities Sunday arrested Elvira Arellano on a downtown city street, ending a yearlong standoff that intensified recently after the illegal Mexican immigrant began what was to be a nationwide campaign to push for new immigration reforms.
Hours later, her pastor said she had been deported to Mexico, the Associated Press reported.
...As Arellano, her 8-year-old son Saul and others headed in a sport-utility vehicle along Main Street toward another leg of their trip in Northern California, several unmarked cars swarmed the vehicle, ordering her to get out as they grabbed the driver and handcuffed him, said Chicago activist Emma Lozano, who was with Arellano.
Before surrendering, Arellano asked for time alone to console her crying son, telling him: "Calm down. Don't have any fear. They can't hurt me," Lozano said. The entire incident lasted about two minutes, she said. The driver was released.
Arellano was taken in handcuffs to a nearby federal detention center, from which she was to be routed to Tijuana, according to Mexican officials.
U.S. authorities on Sunday night did not detail the next steps in the legal process or reveal her location.
But early this morning, the Associated Press reported that Arellano was deported several hours after her arrest. The AP quoted the Rev. Walter Coleman, pastor of Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago, where Arellano had taken refuge.
"She has been deported. She is free and in Tijuana," said Coleman, who said he spoke to her on the phone. "She is in good spirits. She is ready to continue the struggle against the separation of families from the other side of the border."
Lozano and others earlier vowed they would fight to keep her from being deported.
"We have several lawyers already working on it," Lozano said, her eyes red as a group of Arellano supporters sat in stunned silence inside the Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church at "La Placita," the historic center of Mexican Los Angeles.
...In recent months, arrests of fugitives such as Arellano have been occurring at a pace of some 675 per week.
..Last week, Arellano announced she would try to mobilize efforts for more lenient reforms by leaving the Adalberto United Methodist Church for the first time since arriving there last August and traveling to Washington for an 8-hour prayer and fast vigil scheduled for Sept. 12.
Fearing arrest, she kept secret the group's plans of first going to other cities in an attempt to build national momentum leading toward the vigil. After leaving Chicago on Thursday, she arrived in Los Angeles Saturday morning for the first stop in that campaign, which coincided with a local immigration march.
Arellano spent most of her day Sunday urging audiences of several hundred parishioners inside four separate churches to lobby House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other congressional members from California to take up immigration reform immediately after returning from summer recess. Between stops, she donned a pair of sunglasses and slipped into the back of her group's electric blue sport-utility vehicle with her son.
"It's important that we are unified so that we can bring out the message that we're all struggling together," Arellano said at the Angelica Lutheran Church, inside Los Angeles' Pico-Union neighborhood, a port of entry for Central American immigrants. "The hate you are seeing build around the country has no boundaries."
...Immigrant activists in Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities saw Arellano's arrest as inevitable.
"Everyone knew it was probably a question of when, not if," said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. "It just makes me feel really sad because she knows she's looking at time in prison."
Jacobita Alonso, a lay leader at the church who stayed with Arellano on the second-floor apartment during the last year, felt compelled to action.
"We cannot sit here only grieving. All we can do is organize our people. We want her to know she is not alone," she said Sunday.
Amid heavy rainfall Sunday night, about three dozen people sang, prayed and read passages from the Bible during a vigil Sunday night outside the Chicago headquarters of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement downtown to show their disapproval of her arrest. They sang, prayed, read from the Bible.
"It's a sad day," said Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd.) "We need comprehensive immigration reform that keeps families together. A young boy, a U.S. citizen, lost his mother to a broken system. Elvira has put a face to this struggle. There are 12 million illegal immigrants that head to work every morning, not knowing if they'll come home at the end of the day."
Late Sunday, her son, Saul, was under the care of Coleman and Emma Lozano's husband...
For complete article: