LOS ANGELES (AP) —An illegal alien who stayed in a Chicago church for a year to avoid separation from her 8-year-old son, a U.S. citizen, was arrested yesterday and was being processed for deportation.
Elvira Arellano, who arrived in Los Angeles on Saturday after leaving her sanctuary to campaign for immigration reform, was arrested outside Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church, where she was speaking to reporters, said the Rev. Walter Coleman, pastor of Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago, in which she sought sanctuary.
Miss Arellano was "being processed for removal to Mexico based upon a deportation order originally issued by a federal immigration judge in 1997," U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said in a news release.
Immigration activists promised protests and vigils to support her.
"We are sad, but at the same time we are angry," said Javier Rodriguez, a Chicago immigration activist who worked with her. "How dare they arrest this woman?"
Anti-illegal alien groups said the arrest was long overdue.
"Just because the woman has gone public and made an issue of the fact that she is defying law doesn't mean the government doesn't have to do its job," said Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Miss Arellano, 32, has become a symbol for the struggle of illegal aliens. She said Saturday she was not afraid of being taken into custody by immigration agents.
"From the time I took sanctuary, the possibility has existed that they arrest me in the place and time they want," she said in Spanish. "I only have two choices. I either go to my country, Mexico, or stay and keep fighting. I decided to stay and fight."
Miss Arellano came to Washington state illegally in 1997. She was deported to Mexico shortly after, but returned and moved to Illinois in 2000, taking a job cleaning planes at O'Hare International Airport.
She was arrested in 2002 at O'Hare and was convicted of working under a false Social Security number. She was ordered to surrender to authorities last August.
She sought refuge at the storefront church on Chicago's West Side on Aug. 15, 2006. She had not left the church property until deciding to be driven to Los Angeles, Mr. Coleman said.