Elvira Arellano, perhaps America’s most famous illegal immigrant, was arrested earlier today in Los Angeles. Arellano had been holed up in a Chicago church for nearly all of the past year after defying the Homeland Security Department’s deportation order and fleeing to Adalberto United Methodist Church instead.
Since then Arellano has been a vocal public critic of America’s immigration policy. The Washington Post recounts a few of her activites thusly:
She has reignited an interest in a sanctuary movement across the U.S., gone on hunger strikes, written dozens of letters and sent her son with other activists to Mexico and Washington to talk to lawmakers.
Recently Arellano defied the U.S. government’s right to enforce these laws, saying:
“If this government would separate me from my son, let them do it in front of the men and women who have the responsibility to fix this broken law and uphold the principles of human dignity.”
Today that is exactly what happened. The Chicago Tribune says:
In a statement released Sunday night, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that its “officers in Los Angeles today arrested criminal alien and immigration fugitive Elvira Arellano.”
“Arellano, who was taken into custody without incident, is being processed for removal to Mexico based upon a deportation order originally issued by a federal immigration judge in 1997,” the statment said. “Arresting and removing criminal aliens is one of ICE’s top enforcement priorities and the agency will continue to pursue these cases vigorously.”
By arresting Arellano ICE made a liar out of Debbie Schlussel, one of the agencies many vocal critics. But somehow I don’t think that Debbie will mind being wrong this time.
More from the Trib:
“Everyone knew it was probably a question of when, not if ” she would be arrested, said Joshua Hoyt, executive director of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights. “It just made me feel really sad because she knows she’s looking at time in prison. I feel bad for her and for her child and for all the other people in that situation.”
Hoyt said he met Arellano nearly three years ago after she was arrested in a sweep of undocumented immigrants working at O’Hare International Airport.
Arellano had been cleaning planes at night, he said. At the time –“before she was famous,” Hoyt noted–she was afraid, intimidated and ashamed because she had been arrested by federal agents in front of her son.
“She was really emotional and really hurt. She was deeply offended that she would get arrested in front of her child and be treated like a criminal,” Hoyt said. “She thought someone who comes here to work hard at night so she can support her child is not a criminal.”
Not true. Being in the United States – or any other country – illegally is a crime and illegal immigrants are by definition criminals. Illegals do get arrested every so often, even in the U.S. But there is one sure way to avoid the “offense” of being apprehended: stay in one’s country of origin.
“I think she’s an incredibly brave person who’s put a human face on the suffering of the undocumented in this country and because of the cowardice of politicians, many more families are going to be destroyed and many more people are going to die on the borders,” Hoyt said. “America needs to look itself in the face and ask if we want to be that kind of country.”
She may be very brave. But courage is no excuse for criminal behavior and the risks that illegals run crossing our borders is no excuse for not enforcing our country’s laws.
My take on Arellano is that she deliberately chose an aggressive stance to either force the U.S. government to back down and reverse its stated immigration policy or to become a public martyr for the cause of illegal’s rights.
The former was never going to happen. It’s particularly telling that many illegals decry Arellano’s actions as counter-productive to their cause. Now Ms. Arellano will apparently fall into the latter category, justice having been served.
Kudos to ICE for acting in the face of a potential public relations disaster and doing the right thing.