Elvira Arellano's story starts out with the most understandable (if expedient and wrong-headed) rationale for breaking American immigration law. Poor and Mexican, she figured that she could make a better life for herself if she crossed the border illegally and found work.
But the events that followed her initial crossing in 1997 -- culminating in Arellano's arrest and deportation Sunday -- illustrate the corrosive effects that illegal immigration can have on those who break immigration law. No wonder so many Americans opposed the so-called immigration reform package as they feared the bill would not only reward scofflaws, but support activists' apparent belief that there is nothing wrong with flouting American law.
"We immigrants need representation," Arellano complained last year, according to The Associated Press. "The millions of Mexican immigrants who are living in the U.S. are being treated like criminals. I'm not a criminal. I'm a mother who worked to support my son in this country."
Actually, Arellano is a convicted felon.
When Arellano snuck across the border in August 1997, she was caught and deported. Arellano then chose to break American law again. She re-entered the country -- a felony that, if prosecuted, is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
In December 2002, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested Arellano at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.
According to ICE, Arellano was "working illegally for a janitorial services business whose employees had access to security sensitive areas." Subsequently, Arellano was convicted for using someone else's Social Security number -- a felony.
After three years of probation, Arellano was supposed to be deported in August 2006. Instead, she and her son Saul, 8, sought sanctuary at the Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago.
This weekend, Arellano left the church to speak at a rally in Los Angeles, where she was arrested. At Arellano's request, her son remains in America with the family of Pastor Walter Coleman.
Arellano and her defenders argue that because Saul is a U.S. citizen, Elvira should not be forced to return to Mexico and that the U.S. government should not split up families.
Of course, if family unification were important to Elvira Arellano, she should have stayed in Mexico with her family.
Now, she is free to bring her son to Mexico to live with her.