SAN DIEGO (Reuters) - An undocumented Mexican immigrant who made headlines after seeking refuge from deportation in a Chicago church joined a growing protest of deportees crossing into the United States on Tuesday, asking to be allowed to stay, organizers said.
Elvira Arellano, who was deported in 2007, re-entered the country at San Diego with her two children, Saul, 15, and Emiliano, 4 months, said National Immigrant Youth Association organizer Dulce Guerrero. She was taken into detention by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials, Guerrero said.
Arellano, 38, led a group of dozens of mostly young, undocumented adults raised in the United States but sent back to Mexico over the border in an ongoing protest of the plight of immigrants deported to in a sometimes violent country where they feel like strangers.
Organized by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, the San Diego border crossing that began last week is the third in a campaign that began last July and has included journeys into Texas and Arizona.
The participants are mostly in their 20s and say they would have been protected in the United States and allowed to attend college with in-state tuition fees had Congress passed the 2010 Dream Act protecting undocumented youths brought to the country as children.
Most were seeking asylum, citing fear of violence in Mexico, but the group that crossed on Tuesday asked for humanitarian parole, or temporary permission to remain in the country for compassionate reasons, Guerrero said.
“There are 80 adults and 50 kids who’ve turned themselves over to the U.S. government,” Guerrero said.
In 2007, Arellano drew national attention and was named a person of the year by Time magazine for staying within the cramped walls of the storefront Adalberto United Methodist Church for one year, invoking the traditional protection of sanctuary.
With Saul, then 8, she eventually departed the safety of the church to participate in a march for immigration reform, and was eventually deported to Mexico.
Arellano entered the United States illegally in 1997, was returned to Mexico, then recrossed the border and was working a menial job at Chicago’s O‘Hare International Airport in 2002 when she was arrested in an immigration sweep. She was convicted of working under a false Social Security number and, after several delays, was ordered deported.
Writing by Sharon Bernstein