Revolution #59, September 3, 2006


Elvira Arellano’s Defiant Stand Wins Growing Support

It has been two weeks since Elvira Arellano defied an order from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to turn herself in to be deported for having worked with a false Social Security number, and entering this country without papers.

Elvira's defiance has won her the support of many people, and raised awareness about the millions of people living in this country in the shadows and hounded by the police, immigration official, and “unofficial” mercenaries like the Minutemen.

A very important act of solidarity took place on Thursday, August 24 when nine African-American ministers, of the Clergy Speaks Interdenominational coalition, met with Elvira and held a press conference at the Adalberto United Methodist Church—where Elvira is residing with her seven-year-old son Saúl.

The ministers explained that they had met on Monday and decided to take up Elvira’s cause and spoke to the need for the African American community to understand better the immigration issue. Reverend Albert D. Tyson, III, pastor of St. Stephen AME Church, said he hoped that this support would increase the bonds between Latinos and African Americans, and added: “This is a good time for us to unite around the immigration issue. We have so much more in common than we do that separates us.”

The Clergy Speaks Interdenominational was formed earlier this year to lobby for issues of social justice, such as police brutality. Other ministers present at the Thursday press conference include Reverend Marshall Hatch of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition and Bishop Larry Trotter of the Sweet Homely Spirit Church.

This expression of solidarity is especially important in light of reactionary criticisms of the comparison some people have made of Arellano to Rosa Parks—a Black woman who, in 1955, defied racist Jim Crow laws and refused to give up her bus seat to a white person. For example, Ted Hayes of Choose Black America said Elvira’s alleged comparison to Rosa Park was “blasphemy” and “bogus.” He said, “Rosa Parks was a U.S.-born citizen. This lady is a foreign national.” But ministers from Clergy Speaks Interdenominational have pointed out Arellano is contesting an immoral government policy as Rosa Parks did.

Also on August 24, the Coalition of African, Asian, Arab, European and Latino Immigrants joined in a vigil at the Adalberto Church to show their support for Elvira’s cause. Hatem Abdudayyeh, president of the coalition and executive director of the Arab American Action Network, said: “We are aware that this country’s immigration laws are not working, and that is why we are asking for a moratorium on deportations.”

Joanna Borow, the executive director of the Polish American Association, said she supports Elvira “because Arellano’s problem is the same problem millions of people in this country face, and Polish people are no exception.”

The newspaper La Raza (Chicago) reported that an Ecuadorian women (described as “Carmen D.”) went to the Adalberto church to share with Elvira her own ordeal. In September 2005 Carmen D. received an order to turn herself in on December 31, 2005, for deportation. Even though she has lived in the U.S. for 17 years, has two sons (ages 17 and 10), and unlike Elvira has been able to get legal status, a legal Social Security number, and a driver's license, because they had at one point entered the U.S. without papers, they are subject to deportation. Carmen D. said she and Elvira also talked about the many people that are in a similar situation, having relied on previous immigration amnesties only to be betrayed. Carmen D. has not returned to work for fear of being detained.

In the world today there are millions of people from Mexico and other poor, oppressed countries in Latin America—forced by the workings of the same capitalist system that dragged Africans here as slaves—to come to the United States in order to survive. Imperialism has devastated their countries, destroyed the agricultural systems on which many tens of millions have depended, and left few options but to go to overcrowded cities and live in miserable slums or to the imperialist countries, where they are exploited by these same capitalists.

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