Sep 4, 2006
On August 15, Elvira Arellano took refuge, along with her 7-year-old son Saul, in the Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago. Arellano is one of the 11 million immigrants in this country without legal papers. Like most others, she worked for companies that took advantage of her legal status to pay her less money and give her few benefits. Like most others in this situation, she paid income taxes and Social Security, with no hope of getting anything back.
If it hadn’t been for the fact that she worked as a cleaner at O’Hare airport, she would likely have escaped notice. But in the aftermath of 9/11, the government, pretending it was doing something, rounded up people without papers at many airports. She was one of them.
Since that time, her situation has been unsure, with the threat of what might happen to her son hanging over her head. Her son, who was born in this country, is a citizen. She is not. Fearing that she might be removed – with her son forced to move with her to a country he doesn’t know, or to be separated from her when she was expelled – immigrant rights activists finally moved her into the church, which offered her sanctuary.
Some people are trying to turn Arellano into a symbol. But the issue is not symbolic. It’s real, and it involves 11 million people, forced to work under difficult conditions, in fear of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Of course, it’s outrageous that the government would even think of deporting her. But she’s only one person. And what’s completely outrageous is that the government is preparing to deport most of those 11 million immigrants under a bill currently pending in the U.S. Senate – deport or put them into a semi-legal situation much like indentured servants in this country’s early history.
Every one of those 11 million deserves to have legal papers – and immediately. If bosses can bring them here to work, then this government should be forced to give them legal papers.
The only defense for someone like Arellano is a defense of all the immigrants in her situation. And the only way for the whole working class to defend itself against the drive to lower everyone’s wages is to fight against the illegal status given to this large part of the working class.