Mexican immigrant and rights activist Elvira Arellano has been granted parole by U.S. immigration authorities after reentering the country in an act of protest. Arellano was deported after years of living in the country illegally, including a year spent with her son in a Chicago church.
Arellano gained worldwide attention when she sought sanctuary in a Chicago church in 2006. Immigration officials had been trying to send Arellano back to her native Mexico since 2002, when she was caught in an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement sweep of Chicago O’Hare Airport, where she cleaned planes. In 2006, she was named Time Magazine's “Person of The Year.”
She returned to her hometown of San Miguel Curahuango Maravatio in the state of Michoacán in 2007, where she was deported without her American-born son. Continuing her activism work, Arellano became not only an advocate for immigration reform with global reach, but also a voice for the rights of immigrants from Central America traveling through Mexico to reach the United States.
Arellano returned to the U.S. illegally this week with her Mexican-born 5-month-old son and 20 other immigrants in an act of protest against immigration policy. Most of the protesters were like Arellano — parents with young children, and not “dreamers” as in previous border-crossing protests.
Arellano requested asylum Tuesday.
"I am requesting asylum in the United States on humanitarian grounds, because I am a defender of human rights in Mexico and I have received kidnapping and violence threats," Arellano said before entering the U.S. "But more importantly, because they have separated my son for his chance to have a good upbringing."
Arellano was released from ICE custody in San Diego and was paroled Thursday, two days after requesting asylum. It is unclear how many others from the group of 20 were paroled.
An immigration judge will decide Arellano’s case, an ICE spokeswoman told the Associated Press.
"We are pleased to be here with friends who have helped us," Arellano said after her release. "We are going to continue fighting for other fathers and mothers to also be freed."