Like most undocumented immigrants, Elvira Arellano left her native country of Mexico and crossed the border illegally in search of work in the United States.
She arrived in Chicago in 1998 and was hired to clean airplanes at the OHare International Airport. When immigration officials raided the airport in 2002, she was arrested and issued a deportation order for using a false Social Security number to work.
But instead of leaving the country, she and her U.S.-born son, Saúl, sought sanctuary at a church in Chicago in August 2006. Her case quickly gained national attention and activists all across the country began using her story to illustrate the need for immigration reform.
In 2007, a year after she was named Time magazines Person of the Year, she was deported to Mexico. Since moving back to her hometown in Michoacán, she has continued advocating for immigration reform. She is also now fighting to protect the human rights of Central Americans who travel through Mexico on their way to the U.S.
On Tuesday, she along with her 15-year-old son and 4-month-old baby boy will make the journey back to the U.S. They will accompany about 10 families as they attempt to reunite with their loved ones in the U.S. They are all seeking humanitarian parole.
The families are part of a group of more than 150 people who began crossing the border last week and asking U.S. officials to allow them to return to their loved ones living in the U.S. Many of them had been living in the U.S. for years before they were either deported or faced circumstances that drove them to return to their native countries.
In an interview with Voxxi Tuesday morning, Arellano said she and her son, who is now 15 years old, were participating in the border crossing to stand in solidarity with the families.
I have seen the suffering of each one of these families, she said. I have seen their motivation, and I have seen that light of hope in this action of families being able to return in a legal manner to their loved ones in the United States.
Biggest ‘Bring Them Home’ action yet
The border crossing is part of the Bring Them Home campaign led by the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA), an undocumented youth-led network of grassroots organizations.
This is the third and largest border crossing organized by the Bring Them Home campaign. Last year, there were two border crossings one with nine Dreamers and another with 34 Dreamers. Whats different about the latest border crossing is that it includes parents, U.S.-born children and entire families, whereas the past two actions focused on Dreamers.
Since last week, the estimated 150 people participating in the latest Bring Them Home action have been crossing the border in groups through the Otay Mesa port of entry in San Diego and asking U.S. officials to grant them asylum or humanitarian parole.
Almost all of them have already made it across the border and are in detention. Last week, a father was deported and immigration officials began sending the children who crossed the border with their parents to Child Protective Services.
When asked why she believes the families participating in the Bring Them Home action should be allowed to stay in the U.S., Arellano said because of humanitarian reasons.
These families are not criminals. Theyre not terrorists, she said. They are fathers and mothers of these children who deserve a better future.
And a lot of these families are fleeing violence in their native countries, she continued. They are simply asking for an opportunity to live in the U.S.
Arellano said she also joined the border crossing as a way to protest President Barack Obamas immigration policies that are resulting in hundreds of thousands of deportations every year. Nearly 2 million people have been deported ever since Obama became president five years ago.
She called on Obama to help these families so that they can return home.
President Obama is the only one who has the power to stop the deportations and the separation of families, she said. He is the only one who has the power right now to allow these families and Dreamers to return home.
Tuesdays border crossing comes days after Obama directed Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson to review deportation policies in order to find more humanely ways to carry out enforcement efforts. Organizers of the Bring Them Home campaign stated that allowing Arellano and the other families crossing on Tuesday to return to the U.S. is the first action the President should take to deliver on his promise.