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“It’d been a year, and the movement had to keep moving,” Mr. Arroyo said. “A lot of raids and deportations were happening around the nation, so Elvira decided to visit different communities around the country. She had a strong faith in God: If He wanted Immigration not to detain her, then they wouldn’t.”

Miss Arellano visited several immigrants in sanctuary in the Los Angeles area and held two press conferences. She had just left La Placita the afternoon of Aug. 19 when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents closed in. A few hours later, she was back in Mexico.

“We waited until that person came into public space and made the arrest,” ICE spokeswoman Pat Reilly said. “She had broken the law quite publicly, so we arrested her in a way that didn’t harm anyone. She had illegally re-entered the United States, which is a felony, and used another person’s Social Security card to illegally obtain employment in 2002. She could have gone to prison for 20 years.”

Miss Arellano, who was deported with her son, left behind Daisy, the family dog, and all her belongings. But the second-floor apartment is not vacant. Another illegal immigrant, Flor Crisostomo, has taken her place.

The Arellano incident drew a fierce reaction. On Aug. 21, Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn cited an “unscientific survey” about the Arellano affair, which drew about 23,900 responses and produced 182 comments in the blog post - most against the Adalberto church’s one-time resident.

In the survey, 91.5 percent said Miss Arellano should have been arrested, 82.4 percent said a church should not provide sanctuary, and 76.4 percent said the presence of a U.S.-born child in the family should not make a difference in a deportation case. Only 16 percent said they would term Miss Arellano the “Rosa Parks” of the immigrant rights movement.

Elvira symbolizes what families go through here,” said Kim Bobo, executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ), a Chicago-based nonprofit coordinating the sanctuary movement. “There is no rational way she can become a citizen. She’s a good symbol of that as we currently have a broken immigration system and no way to fix it.”

From summer 2006 to spring 2007, three groups decided that the immigration issue needed a human face - in fact, many human faces - and a connection to God.

They were the IWJ in Chicago, founded by Ms. Bobo, a member of the United Church of Christ; Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) in Los Angeles, headed by the Rev. Alexia Salvatierra, a Lutheran; and Asociacion Tepeyac, later renamed the New York New Sanctuary Movement, founded by Juan Carlos Ruiz, an inactive Catholic clergyman who emigrated from Mexico in 1986.

Ms. Salvatierra and Mr. Ruiz met in November 2006 in San Antonio to think through ways American churches could use their resources on behalf of illegal immigrants. Impressive church coalitions had coalesced 20 years earlier to offer sanctuary; perhaps, they thought, those coalitions could be restarted.

“We saw what Elvira was doing,” Mr. Ruiz said, “and we began playing with the whole idea of a ‘new’ sanctuary movement.”

They presented their idea in January 2007 at a Washington, D.C., meeting of 65 religious leaders representing 13 denominations.

“We were building the plane as we flew it,” Mr. Ruiz recalled. “But ground organizing started after that in terms of gathering support.”

One of the top organizers was Ms. Bobo, 53, who runs IWJ out of a fourth-floor office at Edgewater Presbyterian Church, a French Romanesque edifice a few blocks from Lake Michigan.

She cut her teeth on political organizing during a 1977 stint with the Washington-based Bread for the World, a Christian group that fights hunger. When she moved to Chicago, “I realized the religious community was doing very little on work and labor issues. I said, ‘There’s a gap here.’ ”

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