Thursday, May 03, 2007

Elvira Arellano: Resisting Deportation, The New Frontier of Civil Disobedience.

Elvira Arellano: Resisting Deportation, The New Frontier of Civil Disobedience.

By Maricela García

The act of seeking refugee in a holy place in search of immunity from the law is ancient. Churches have been providing sanctuary to people escaping persecution since medieval times. What is new about Elvira Arellano’s seeking sanctuary last August is that by defying her deportation order she brings the immigrant rights movement to a new level of resistance.

Elvira Arellano’s refusing to turn herself into the Department of Homeland Security in Chicago for deportation is generating heated polemics among anti immigrant and pro immigrant rights groups. The first argued that this was the ultimate mockery to U.S. immigration laws and the latter questioned the effectiveness of the tactic. Despite opposite points of view, there is agreement that what Elvira did is courageous and bold.

Elvira’s stand is forcing our society to look into the eyes of a mother pleading for an opportunity to stay in this country with her U.S. born son. If the show of political power demonstrated by the marches did not move people to understand the urgency of reforming our obsolete immigration laws, the story of a woman who is declaring her right to stay might.

Elvira’s personal story is about the intrinsic relationship between Mexico and the U.S., helping us understand that many of the people who crossed the border without authorization are victims of U.S. economic policies toward the region.

In an interview, Arellano explained why she came to the U.S., “After Mexico signed a free trade agreement with the U.S., many [Mexican] small farmers went bankrupt because they could not compete with the cheap prices of corn and grains that came from the U.S.” She is from a rural area in southwest Mexico, the state of Michoacán, where most people make their livelihood by farming. Up until recently, three out of every five Mexicans in the U.S. were from Michoacán, a region that has supplied several generations of immigrant labor for U.S. agriculture and industrial work since the 1880s.

Her father lost his source of income to support the family and Elvira had to come to the U.S. to work in order to help. Like Elvira, many people have been adversely affected by the dichotomy of U.S. economic policies toward Latin America that open markets and displace workers but close the borders to people. Unless we understand and address the roots of the problem, the immigration debate will continue failing to offer long-term solution to change future immigration flows into the US.

When Elvira says, “I represent the reality and suffering of many families that could be separated by deportations,” she speaks about 6.3 million immigrant families of which at least one parent is undocumented. Almost 5 million children, half of whom were born in the U.S., would be affected if their parents were deported. This poses a moral question for our society.

The way society treats vulnerable groups reveals its soul. The current immigration system is cruel, unfair and immoral. It forces many good people into breaking the law because there are limited legal channels to enter or remain in the U.S. legally. Employers who want to comply with the law find no solution to regularize the immigration status of their workers and unscrupulous ones take advantage of their status to exploit and abuse them.

Many undocumented immigrants live in fear and try to be invisible in society. Others usually speak for them. That is why Elvira’s action is empowering. She overcame her fears to speak truth to power. Her life story illustrates the complexity of unauthorized migration, explaining the causes and consequences that challenges us all to find the solutions.

If Elvira is deported, it will be a blow for immigrants and the immigrant rights movement must be prepared to respond massively. To prevent this possibility, more churches should become and are becoming sanctuaries and immigrant rights advocates must be prepared to engage in higher forms of resistance. It might take many more courageous people like Elvira to effect change in our society.

Elvira should remain in the U.S. to help make our society better. After all, the history of our country has been shaped by courageous individuals who have stood up against injustice. With each of these struggles, the full humanity of more people has been acknowledged and society as a whole has achieved higher levels of existence.

Maricela García is a member of the national board of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights and is the executive director of Latinos United, a policy & reserach organization. She served as the director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights from 1998 To 2001.


Anonymous said...

"My father started his working life at the age of 10 in an Athens grocery store. He came to this country in 1906 from an extremely poor, backward village at the age of 16 and worked 14-hour days and six-day weeks. He never saw his parents again, but he became an American citizen and supported his parents from the U.S. as well as sent his children to college.

My parents paid for their children's Catholic School education and all of their health care entirely from their own pocket.

After learning to speak impeccable English, my father included in his reading John Bunyan's "The Pilgrim's Progress," the poems of Robert Burns and English translations of the Orations of Cicero and Dante's "Inferno."

Along comes Elvira Arellano who insists that she has a right to remain in this country after twice sneaking into the U.S. and finding employment with a fake Social Security card. That may not be criminal, but it most certainly is illegal.

It is not the stuff of which good citizenship is made. And it is an insult to my father's memory and to the memory of all the immigrants of this country who played by the rules."

-Christina Diamantes Slavens, as seen in Facing Deporation: Readers Respond

Out of 42 responses, only four expressed sympathy and encouragement to Elvira's plight. She is no hero.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with anonymous.

My Grandfather came to the US from mexico and fought in WWII to gain his citizenship. He believed in living the American way of life and raised his seven children to believe in it also. Only English was spoken in the home and education was first and foremost. As a result one of my uncles graduated from the Naval Academy, another just retired from the Marines after 35 years of service, and the others are all educated professionals.

To just hand over citizenship to Elvira or any illegal alien would be an injustice to all immigrants who sacrificed something to be Americans. What makes me mad are these illegal aliens who want the rights of Americans, but talk trash about America. If you don't like Our laws then stay the hell in your own third-world country.


Однако, если действительно не выполняете своих обязательств по аренде Взять Кредит, землевладелец может в конечном счете назвать агентство по взысканию платежей на, и они определенно сообщат о. Таким образом Cash Advance Online, это всегда находится в интересах всегда удостовериться, что платите должные остатки!
Я сделал несколько ошибок, в то время как в колледже и теперь взять кредит. Мой кредитный рейтинг 600. Однако это все заплатилось, у меня нет долга. Никакая компания по выпуску кредитных карт не утвердит меня так, я не могу накопить свой кредит