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Activist Deportee Elvira Arellano Released In San Diego

Evening Edition

Elvira Arellano never thought she would make it back into the United States. Now she has returned with the hope of staying here for good.

The 39-year-old made international headlines and became a heroine to immigration activists seven years ago, when she sought sanctuary from deportation in a Chicago church. She lived inside the Adalberto United Methodist Church for a year. She was named a Person of the Year by Time Magazine in 2006. But she was finally deported in 2007 along with her 8-year-old son.

Elvira Arellano looks over her parole papers with a fellow activist in San Diego, March 20, 2014.

After she returned to Mexico, Arellano remained an active advocate of immigration reform, participating in demonstrations when she could.

This week, she joined a mass protest along the U.S.-Mexico border in which about 150 people tried to cross into the United States without documentation, many applying for humanitarian visas or planning to seek asylum. Arellano tried to cross with her infant son Emiliano on her back, and was taken into custody by U.S. Border Patrol at the Otay Mesa border crossing.

“I was really nervous going in, really afraid, of course,” Arellano said in Spanish, standing outside the federal courthouse building in San Diego while friends and family took turns holding her baby. “I was scared they would send me to federal prison because I have a previous deportation. But thanks to the community, the organizations, the people who worked so hard, and thanks to God, I'm here and I'm free.”

She and her baby were released into San Diego on parole Thursday afternoon and she was greeted by her other son, 15 year old Saul Arellano, who had been waiting for her in the United States.

Special Feature Migrant ‘Dreamers’ Seek To Enter US At San Diego Border

KPBS Evening Edition host Peggy Pico speaks with Lilia Velasquez, a San Diego attorney specializing in immigration, about migrants presenting themselves to agents at the U.S.-Mexico border seeking asylum, March 11, 2014.

“We were deported when I was 8 years old, and then I lived my other seven years in Mexico and now we're back,” said Saul, smiling.

Arellano's friend and longtime adviser Emma Lozano was also waiting outside the courthouse.

“I really believed she would be because I received those phone calls, that were very positive, and I felt a connection," said Arellano. "God was giving me a sign... but when I talked to different people they were saying no, there's no way. Even my attorney was saying there's no way that's going to happen, so I was starting to get a little doubtful.”

Lozano is an activist and a pastor at Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago, where Elvira Arellano once lived. She said she hopes Arelleno's release into the United States marks a change in immigration policy.

“We just kept praying, and then we kept pressuring Obama to do what he has to do, because it's not just about Elvira and Saulito,” said Lozano. “It's a human crisis.... You can't just unjustly deport 2 million people when there's a broken law.”

The Arellanos are now making long-term plans.

“She's gonna be here until her case is resolved, and we're going to wait here, and then we're going to go back home,” said Saul.

Home, to him, is Chicago – a place he has only been able to visit occasionally for the past seven years.

“I've come to vacations in Chicago, I come every vacation. But I think now I'm gonna stay for a while.”

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Avatar for user 'progressivebuthey'

progressivebuthey | March 21, 2014 at 11 a.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

only latinos would see this logic (or nonsense) --- I'm illegal. I demand stay. America' government is bad. I'm going to enter illegally again. I demand asylum.

once latinos stop viewing themselves as VICTIMS in life and liberal Americans the SAVIORS, more people will take responsibility --- i.e. change life in your own country!

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Avatar for user 'StuartHurlbert'

StuartHurlbert | March 21, 2014 at 6:28 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

This person is not a "heroine" even by the low standards of KPBS's "hero of the month awards."

She's a lawbreaker pure and simple intent on encouraging others to break the law. Basically she is asking for permanent residency for herself and her family precisely because she did break the law and did so multiple times.

The US has benefitted tremendously from many of the legal immigrants who have come here. But Arellano is the very last sort of person we would want to offer permanent residency to and a very unlikely person to contribute positively to U.S. society.

Instead of putting out sob story after sob story about illegal aliens and the religiosity of their supporters, why don't KPBS journalists ever dig into anything substantive on the immigration?

How about an article about how many tens of millions of people would be quickly added to the US population by an immigration expansion bill like S.744? Plenty of data out there, and you can be sure the Union-Tribune will keep it hidden from sight.

There's a hot congressional race developing in the 52d district in North County between Carl DeMaio, Scott Peters and Kirk Jorgensen. How about a KPBS journalist asking each of them what their position is on the elimination of birthright citizenship? Good luck on getting straight answers!

Abuse of the system by people like Arrellano will continue forever until that old judicial perversion of the 14th amendment is taken care of. And exactly which branch of the famous Arrellano family does this woman come from anyways?

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | March 21, 2014 at 8:45 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

STUART HERBERT, not that they are perfect or unbiased, not by far, but if you really feel that way about KPBS, why do you even bother to go on their website???

One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. ... Ralph Waldo Emerson .

Between you Herbert and Emerson, I take Emerson.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | March 21, 2014 at 8:49 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

REGRESSIVEBOOTY, apparently NOT ONLY Latinos, but AM CONSERVATIVE radio talk show host, HUGH HEWITT as well, and the UNITED STATES CHAMBER OF COMMERCE who are sympathetic to the efforts of undocumented workers.

Mmmaybe you should INFORM yourself, first???

Immigration: Myths and Facts | U.S. Chamber of Commerce‎
United States Chamber of Commerce
Oct 24, 2013 - Jobs. Employment is not a “zero-sum” game. The U.S. economy does not contain a fixed number of jobs for which immigrants and native-born ...
ImmIgratIon Myths And The Facts - US Chamber of Commerce‎
United States Chamber of Commerce
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will continue to work for common-sense ... MYTH: Immigrants drive down the wages of American workers. FACT: Immigrants

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Avatar for user 'StuartHurlbert'

StuartHurlbert | March 21, 2014 at 11:26 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

Come now, MissAccomp, do you really think the Chamber of Commerce has any interest other than making their own deep pockets deeper? They see mass amnesties and mass immigration as a source of more customers, more consumers, and more profits, most of which will go to the managerial elites.

If you would like a deeper understanding of this and related issues go the website of Scientists and Environmentalists for Population Stabilization ( ) and read the section titled "Points for Reflection."

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Avatar for user 'annonymous'

annonymous | March 22, 2014 at 3:35 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

This is an open invitation for any illegal to make a scandle, break the law and demand to stay and actually get away with it... while there are those who stay in their countries try to do things legally to come to the US and fail to do so. this is an embarresment to the US Immigration service...

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | March 26, 2014 at 2:15 p.m. ― 2 years, 11 months ago

If she loves it here so much, why can't she speak English after all of this time??
How was her deported 15 year old son already here to greet her?? What federal law can I break by stomping my feet and acting out??

She should have been slapped with a felony and put in prison. This insanity needs to stop. Put her in jail !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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