The Least, First

Monte Asbury's blog

Mom and son find refuge in church

with 6 comments

Even here in our little Iowa town, we’ve seen families torn apart by bizarre and haphazard immigration laws. I don’t know what I’d do if the things that have happened to them happened to me (eg., if someone told me to kiss my family good-by and leave the country).

A mother in Chicago is facing exactly that this week. Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow! interviews Elvira Arellano and her pastor, Rev. Walter Coleman, below. Ms. Arellano and her seven-year-old son have found sanctuary at the Adalberto United Methodist Church, where she has been a member for three years.

[see the entire interview, which is much better than my excerpt, and tells more of the story’s fascinating details, by clicking here]

AMY GOODMAN: . . . I’m asking Elvira why the government is saying they want to deport her and why she wants to stay in this country with her son.

ELVIRA ARELLANO: [translated] Because he is a U.S. citizen, and she wants for them to respect his constitutional rights.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you afraid that they will enter the church?

ELVIRA ARELLANO: [translated] Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: How have you prepared for this?

ELVIRA ARELLANO: [translated] I just know that I have to be with my son. . . .

AMY GOODMAN: Rev. Walter Coleman, are you concerned you will face consequences, sanctions for your church being used as a sanctuary? And do you see yourself in the tradition of the sanctuary movement of 20 years ago, where churches in this country and especially along the border from Mexico gave refuge to refugees from political persecution from Guatemala, from Honduras, from El Salvador?

REV. WALTER COLEMAN: Right. You know, the sanctuary movement and sanctuary tradition in the church goes a long way, further back than 20 years ago. And certainly we call upon that tradition, that is, that there’s holy ground and that there’s space that should be respected by governments for those who appeal to the law of God in their acts of conscience and in their seeking of safety from oppression.

And, you know, we don’t really know what they’ll look at. . . . If they choose to take whatever action they’re going to take, I have no control over that. But I fear God much more than I fear Homeland Security. . . .
. . . She could have gone and just disappeared like 12 million other people. She could have accepted the deportation. But she has always said that she would fight what she considers to be an unjust law, so that her son will know that he’s a child of God and not a piece of junk that can be thrown away. So the option of sanctuary when she requested it seemed like a good option to give her a holy space to continue a campaign of civil disobedience against an unfair law that is separating families throughout this country.

AMY GOODMAN: [to Arellano] . . . Do you plan to stay at the church indefinitely? How long do you plan to stay?

ELVIRA ARELLANO: [translated] The only thing that I want is to stay with my son. I would like for this to come out good, because I want to take my son to school. I want him to have — I have worked for him all my life, and I still want to keep working for him all my life. That’s what I want.

Millions of people have come to America illegally because it was the only way they could find to provide for their families. And for this, will capricious rules made by politicians under special-interest pressure be allowed to rip their families apart? Is America really so hard-hearted and self-absorbed that we prefer people in poverty stay home and let their children suffer?

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,


Written by Monte

August 23, 2006 at 12:45 pm

6 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. OK, suppose you’re in her place. Can’t provide for your child at home, can’t get legally into the U.S., raising your child in the U.S. is the only hope you see for breaking the cycle. Would you break the law or raise your child in poverty?


    November 17, 2006 at 3:09 pm

  2. There is nothing wrong with making exceptions to our immigration laws and allowing someone to stay, but for an illegal immigrant to take “refuge” (by the way there is no such legal loophole and the authorities could go in and get her anytime) in a church and make a huge case out of this using her child is disgusting. I think it’s time to end this drama perpetrated by a careless law breaking mother, and kick her sorry butt back across the river.

    Larry McDaniel

    November 15, 2006 at 11:04 am

  3. Good question! I can think of a few possible answers, none of them too flattering.

    Could be
    – we’re simply greedy, and don’t want to share what we have
    – we’re fearful, afraid that if we share we’ll lose . . . something, somehow
    – loving our neighbors as ourselves is simply beyond us

    See others?


    September 13, 2006 at 10:57 pm

  4. Why so much anger about this? Why are so many Americans expressing such vehement opposition to fellow human beings? If it’s not one thing, it’s another. If it’s not Mexicans, it’s Arabs or gays or liberal (or conservatives!) or … you name it. It’s as if we need someone to hate, to refuse to be around, to kick out, and perhaps someday soon to kill. But why?


    September 5, 2006 at 7:20 am

  5. Thanks for commenting, TL. Here’s a response I wrote some time back:

    But they broke the law . . .



    August 31, 2006 at 2:30 pm

  6. Are you crazy? What the hell is wrong with “you” people? She has broken the law for 9 years now and needs to face the consequences. She is a fugitive and should be forcibly removed from our country. She knew this day may come, regardless if she had a kid here who really is illegal also… the law surrounding this is wrong too!

    SHE NEEDS TO BE ARRESTED AND SENT BACK, AND HER KID TOO. I’m tired of paying for these criminals.

    If an American mother broke the law for 9 years, she would be prosicuted also.

    This psuedo pastor in Chicago is a joke and should watch his shadow…

    Get her the f*** out of our country, along with the other millions of ILLEGAL ALIENS (not undocumented workers) from MEXICO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The Law

    August 31, 2006 at 12:34 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: