August 19, 2007

The Nearly-Perfect Conservative Voodoo Doll

by PG

If I were more politically paranoid, I would be convinced that Elvira Arellano, the Mexican illegal immigrant who became a star of the pro-immigration lobby while temporarily evading arrest and deportation by taking refuge in a church, was a Republican plant. While Bobby Rush (D-IL) has put forward a bill to grant her and 33 other illegal immigrants relief from deportation, the bill has remained in committee despite the House's being under Democratic control. The reason why seems fairly obvious -- Democrats have little to gain, and much to lose, from condoning multiple violations of U.S. law.

To my knowledge, Ms. Arellano never has recognized publicly that she did anything wrong by entering the country in 1997, re-entering shortly after being deported or using a fake Social Security number. She may have become pregnant with her son Saul by accident or even due to sexual assault (some women who "refuse" to name the man who got them pregnant either cannot because they were assaulted by a stranger, or do not because they fear repercussions from a known assailant), and I assume that most Republicans' opposition to abortion extends to illegal immigrants. Nonetheless, the timing of her pregnancy, a year after she came back to the U.S., sets off "deliberate anchor baby" alarms on the right. She does not seem to be concerned that her family would face danger in Mexico, given that she sent her seven-year-old son there to plead her case before that nation's Congress. And instead of being embarrassed that one of their citizens would risk imprisonment rather than return to Mexico, those legislators unanimously passed a resolution similar to Rep. Rush's bill.

The only problematic element in this story for immigration opponents is that Ms. Arellano annoyingly failed to become a welfare queen or drug pusher. Instead, she cleaned at O'Hare International Airport and probably still would be working there had it not been for the post-9/11 security sweep. I'm not sure why the Chicago Tribune's editorial board claims that Ms. Arellano would be ineligible for "earned legalization" under Bush's reform proposals -- she has worked and has committed no crimes unrelated to her immigration status.

Nonetheless, Ms. Arellano's activist attitude makes her less sympathetic as a human being. Unlike civil rights icons who went to jail for acts of disobedience that were committed in order to win the rights of entire classes of people, she goes to jail because she wants her son to benefit from both his mother's presence and his American citizenship. Yet if the prosecutor points to Ms. Arellano's past re-entry as reason to pursue a prison term rather than just deportation, she may now be able to see her son only when he can visit her in prison. Even if her case were winning converts for the pro-immigration side -- which I doubt -- she still will have failed in what she claimed was her original goal: being able to stay with her son.

August 19, 2007 10:01 PM | TrackBack
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