Monday, August 20, 2007

U.S. policy should keep families together, not separate mothers from their children

AFSC gravely concerned by arrest and deportation of Elvira Arellano

In the wake of the arrest and deportation of Elvira Arellano - a Mexican immigrant who, with her 8-year old son, sought church sanctuary - AFSC continues its call for a rational, humane, and fair system of immigration that provides a path to legal residency and citizenship and keeps families in this country intact.

"Elvira exemplifies what's wrong with current immigration laws," says Christian Ramirez, an AFSC national immigrants' rights coordinator. "Ripping a mother away from her 8-year old child is unconscionable. Such dramatic and drastic measures fail to address the root causes of migration to the United States and ignore the needs of multi-status immigrant families, specifically families with children born in the United States who have known no other life beyond the one they have had in this country."

Ramirez saw Elvira Arellano this morning, soon after she was deported to Mexico. He reports that she vowed to be reunited with her son and to continue her campaigning for just and humane treatment of immigrants.

"With her strength, passion and admirable response, Elvira demonstrates these inhumane actions will not take away her dignity," Ramirez adds. "However, the repressive worksite raids and harsh, punitive enforcement tactics now adopted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement only compel thousands of families - such as Arellano and her son - to live their lives underground in a complicated and traumatic immigration limbo."

The Service Committee is compelled to speak out at this critical moment when many mixed-status families, such as Elvira Arellano and her U.S.-born son, have nearly lost all hope of remaining together.

As an undocumented immigrant mother facing deportation for the past year, Elvira Arellano had been given sanctuary by one of Chicago's Methodist congregations. She had traveled to Los Angeles with community and faith leaders from Chicago as part of a nationwide advocacy campaign calling for humane immigration policies and an end to immigration raids in worksites and homes across the country.

The deportation occurs at a moment of great anxiety in immigrant communities. Last week, the Department of Homeland Security issued a new immigration enforcement plan that, among other initiatives, increases the number of border agents, detention beds, and workplace immigration raids.

Instead of giving free rein to repressive worksite raids and other punitive enforcement measures, this country needs constructive immigration policies that enable Elvira Arellano and other undocumented parents to remain with their children and find a path to legal residency and citizenship.