CHICAGO – Immigration enforcement officers do not plan to enter a church where a single mother sought sanctuary rather than submit to deportation to Mexico, a government official said Friday.
But Elvira Arellano, 31, and her supporters say only a stay of deportation will ensure that she and her 7-year-old son, an American citizen, are not forcibly removed from the Adalberto United Methodist Church.
"The situation doesn't change," Arellano said in Spanish.
Arellano has been living in the church since Tuesday, when she was supposed to surrender to authorities for deportation.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials had said they would apprehend Arellano at a time and place "of their choosing" and that nothing prevented them from going into the church.
But on Friday, a government official close to the case said immigration agents have decided against entering the church to remove Arellano.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it is against ICE policy to discuss operational matters, said the Arellano case carries "no more priority than any of the other 500,000 fugitives nationally."
Arellano will be apprehended "at an appropriate time and place," the official said.
Arellano said she was unconvinced that immigration officials would not try to apprehend her at the church, where supporters kept a watchful eye on the flow of traffic at the front door.
"Until I have something in writing that says they are giving me an extension so that I can stay in the country with my son, for me there is no security," she said.
Arellano was deported shortly after illegally crossing into the United States in 1997. She returned within days. She was arrested in 2002 and convicted of working under a false Social Security number.
She has since become a vocal proponent for immigration reform and is president of United Latino Family, a group that lobbies for families that could be split by deportation.