Thursday, December 28, 2006

Chicago church housing illegal immigrant mom fears raid imminent
December 28, 2006 (CHICAGO) - Members of a storefront church said Wednesday they fear U.S. authorities plan to raid their building and arrest an illegal immigrant who has taken refuge there.

Adalberto United Methodist Church has sheltered Elvira Arellano and her 8-year-old son, Saul, since August. Arellano sought sanctuary at the West Side church after she was ordered deported, saying she didn't want to be separated from her son, a U.S. citizen.

The Rev. Walter Coleman said neighborhood residents reported seeing U.S. marshals taking photos of the church Tuesday night. But Mark Gregoline, deputy U.S. marshal for northern Illinois, said Wednesday that his agency is not involved in the case.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Carl Rusnok said he had heard the same rumors Wednesday, but said his agency was not involved in surveillance, either. Agency officials have said Arellano's case is not a high priority, but there is nothing to prevent them from arresting her.

Church members -- who keep the glass doors chained and covered with heavy curtains -- said they will resume a 24-hour vigil that includes prayer and standing watch at windows and doors and from the rooftop.

They said the recent multistate raids at Swift & Co. meatpacking plants and the arrest two weeks ago of Martin Barrios, a Berwyn factory worker who'd been featured in a Chicago Sun-Times article, made them even more fearful for Arellano.

"To carry out these raids in this holy season, separating families who have no criminal records, who have done nothing wrong, who have been workers and taxpayers and whose children are U.S. citizens ... for that to happen now is inexplicable to me," Coleman said.

Coleman said church members wouldn't resist in the event of a raid.

"We are going to pray; that is the only weapon we have," he said.

Arellano is a former cleaning woman at O'Hare International Airport convicted of using a false Social Security number.

The church has asked the Bush administration to suspend deportation of illegal immigrants with U.S.-born children until Congress passes an immigration reform bill. In November, Saul Arellano traveled to Mexico and successfully lobbied its Chamber of Deputies to call on the U.S. Congress to suspend such deportations.