Photo: Elvira Arellano
Mexican activist Elvira Arellano, who holed up in a Chicago church for more than a year to avoid deportation, was freed in San Diego two days after giving herself up to U.S. immigration authorities.
Arellano and infant son Emiliano were paroled and their case will be decided by an immigration court, authorities said.
Her other son, 15-year-old U.S. citizen Saul, spent only a few hours in custody.
Moved to tears, Elvira Arellano told Efe minutes after being released that she hopes this is “the start” of other families being freed that crossed the border with her through California’s Otay Mesa Port of Entry.
“We’re going to keep up the pressure so they are all released,” Arellano said, noting that her “commitment is very great because I’m so grateful for everyone standing by me and for this movement that opened the way for me to go home.”
Arellano, TIME magazine’s Person of the Year in 2006, acknowledged that once detained, she was afraid she could never rejoin her loved ones.
“I was really nervous, and yes I was scared, but fortunately it all turned out fine,” Arellano said.
The activist and defender of human rights confessed to being afraid “they would send me to federal prison because I had a previous deportation.”
Saul said he was happy to be with his mother again and believes that what she did will “set a precedent in the struggle for immigration reform that will stop the deportations that break up families.”
“This is something big, a person who has spent her life fighting for the undocumented is set free,” Saul said.
Arellano was deported from the United States in August 2007, shortly after she left the Chicago church that sheltered her from immigration authorities seeking to enforce a 2002 deportation order.