Case Highlights Immigration Enforcement Problems

by on August 28th, 2007

The case of Elvira Arellano is symptomatic of the kinds of obstacles we face when trying to enforce immigration laws in the United States. Ms. Arellano is an illegal immigrant who was recently captured in Los Angeles and deported after having been holed up in a Methodist church in Chicago for a year. That church offered her sanctuary last August, just as she was scheduled to appear before immigration authorities for possible deportation proceedings. She had previously been convicted of using a bogus Social Security number. She has a seven-year-old son who is a U.S. citizen by virtue of his birth here during her unlawful stay.

She had planned to go to Washington in September to lobby for immigration reform. She hadn’t made any effort to become a U.S. citizen. Apparently, she was waiting for the government to pass an immigration reform bill that would have handed U.S. citizenship to her on a silver platter, as a reward for her criminal behavior.

First of all, where did Ms. Arellano get the notion that she had a right to lobby Congress? Why did she think she had a right to protest anything in this country? Those rights are reserved for U.S. citizens, not people are in the U.S. illegally.

I’m glad Ms. Arellano was seized and deported by law enforcement officials after she left the church and went to Los Angeles. However, she should have been apprehended before — from the church. Churches that knowingly provide sanctuary to scofflaws of any kind should lose their tax-exempt status. In addition, any of their property and structures used to shelter such persons should be forfeited to the government. Churches have no more right than any other entity or individual to flout the law.

Deporting Ms. Arellano did not necessarily have to break up her family, as she had claimed it would. She was free to take her son with her, even though he is a U.S citizen. Instead, she chose to leave him in the custody of the pastor of the Chicago church where she had been staying. Far too many illegal immigrants are exploiting the “birth” loophole in the U.S. Constitution as a means of remaining in this country. Our Founding Fathers never envisioned such brazen opportunism when they framed the Constitution. It needs to be amended to withhold automatic citizenship from babies born in this country unless at least one of their parents is already a U.S. citizen.

Terry Mitchell