The good thing about dwelling in the valley is it’s only for a moment. One can always get back up and climb the mountain again. That is if you have the strength, courage and faith to try again. My season in the valley pales in comparison to that of Elvira Arellano. She was stanched from the mountain top and forced into the valley in handcuffs.
Arellano was arrested on Sunday, August 19th outside Our Lady Queen of Angels church in Los Angeles. Hours later, she was deported. “She is free in Tijuana,” said the Rev. Walter Coleman, pastor of Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago, where Arellano had taken refuge. “She is in good spirits. She is ready to continue the struggle against the separation of families from the other side of the border.”
Arellano, 32, became a symbol of the struggles of illegal immigrant parents when she took refuge in the church to avoid being separated from her 8-year old son Saul, who was born in the U.S. making him a citizen.
She spoke the day before about the possibility of being deported. "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." Arellano first came to the U.S. in 1997 where she lived illegally in Washington state. 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 again in 2002 at O'Hare and convicted of working under a false Social Security number. She was to surrender to authorities last August but failed to turn herself in.She sought refuge at the storefront church on Chicago's West Side on Aug. 15, 2006. She had not left the church property until she decided to travel by car to Los Angeles. She had decided to come out of hiding to bring to light her struggle."She'll be organizing on the Mexican side of the border while we're organizing in the (United) States," Coleman said. "She'll be talking to organizations throughout Mexico and congressmen in Mexico City." Coleman said he and other activists will continue Arellano's original plan to go to Washington, D.C. and take part in a prayer meeting and rally for immigration reform at the Capitol on Sept. 12. "We are sad, but at the same time we are angry," said Javier Rodriguez, a Chicago immigration activist who worked with Arellano. "How dare they arrest this woman"
How dare they deny her the right to be with her son. Most Americans lack sensitivity when it comes to the fight for immigration rights. Let’s face it, people are scared of the implications of opening the borders to allow more to come into the good ole USA. The failure of adequate border control has resulted in America becoming less white, less black and more brown.
White people are no longer the majority and African Americans are no longer the largest minority. Just when white people were willing to embrace African American culture and African Americans were celebrating the impact of years of fighting for equal rights, those people south of the border enter into the picture.
They bring with them a different language and other burdens on public policy. Does this mean we need to learn to speak Spanish? Hmm. The thought of having to think outside the box in learning to adapt to our new neighbors is enough to cause the most liberal thinking person to alter their position.
I’m amused that many African Americans are fighting for stricter immigration laws. What would appear to be a natural collaboration has become one of the most vicious territorial battles. You can feel the jealousy getting in the way of formulating sound social policy. Instead of taking on the cause of their brown brothers and sisters, African Americans are struggling to make sense out of what it means to no longer be the majority minority in America.
My advice to anyone willing to claim that this land belongs to them is to take a trip to a place outside the U.S. It’s easy to fight for the protection of those American borders when your virgin eyes have never seen the pain of men, women and children living in conditions that would cause them to run to another place. It’s easy to forget that people have always found America to be a welcoming place for those hoping to find a better place to call home.
We are the descendents of people who ran away. The only people living in American that can authentically call this home are those who had the land taken out from under them-the Native Americans. African Americans were forced to come as forced labor. Sadly, many are still waiting to get paid the forty acres and a mule they needed to make the transition from enslavement to freedom.
142 years have passed since the end of slavery and African Americans are still waiting for the support from the government. The first African arrived in America as indentured servants via Jamestown, Virginia in 1619. 246 years of slavery can’t be undone in 142 years.
The bitterness can’t be denied. They come here-illegally-yet agencies are there to support them. They build businesses void of citizenship. They purchase homes and automobiles without legal status. African Americans are witnessing this mass influx that, in the minds of many, are reaping advantages denied them.
The increase among Latinos results in a reduction in political power among African Americans. No longer can African Americans give claim to being the most powerful minority in America. More for them means less for us-some may think. All of that can be changed if people would sit down and have a conversation beyond what they feel.
How dare they deny her right to be with her son. Mothers should be marching in the streets. An 8-year-old is without his mother because she fought for the rights of other mothers to be with their children. Motherhood has no political ideology. It looks past assumptions and regards the needs of the child more than the rules related to who has a right to call America their home.
Emma Lozano, Coleman's wife and head of immigration rights group Centro Sin Fronteras in Chicago, said she was Saul's legal guardian. At an afternoon press conference in Los Angeles, the boy hid behind Lozano and wiped away tears. "He's taking it better than we thought he would," Lozano said. While being arrested, Arellano spoke briefly with her son before submitting to authorities, Lozano said. "She calmed him down, hugged him and gave him a blessing," said Lozano
How dare they deny her the right to be with her son.