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20 Million More To Go

By Kevin Robinson in News on Aug 20, 2007 1:00PM

That's how many people are working illegally in this country, at least according to some estimates. Others put it closer to seven, depending on who you ask, and when. It's hard to get a handle on the actual number because most undocumented workers aren't too keen on standing up and being counted.

2007_8_sanctuary.jpgYesterday afternoon Elvira Arellano was arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the federal agency charged with, among other things, keeping people from washing your dishes for $6 an hour without the proper credentials. Arellano was arrested in Los Angeles shortly after 2PM PDT after leaving Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in downtown Los Angeles. She was deported to Mexico last night, and is staying with friends in Tijuana. Her arrest brings closure to a chapter in the story of the struggle for immigration reform that has divided supporters and galvanized opponents. Javier Salas, the host of the morning-drive talk show La Tremenda on WRTO AM-1200 here in Chicago, told the Tribune "She made everything worse.... She's not a face of the immigrants. My family without papers, she doesn't represent them."

All of this got us thinking about a piece that Eric Zorn wrote last week about Arelleno. In a nutshell, he asked what the hell ICE was doing in the first place? Leaving her alone in a Methodist Church on the West Side only reinforces her claim to sanctuary. He suggested that ICE left her alone as a cynical ploy to stoke resentment and anger in general against immigrants. As evidenced by yesterday's arrest, that doesn't seem to be the case. But it takes us back to Zorn's other question: "What if Rosa Parks had never lived?" At this point Arellano has probably done more damage to her cause than help. Only the most dedicated and committed activists have rallied around her; even solid supporters of immigration reform have stayed away from her cause. With her deportation imminent, it's as if we have gone back to the beginning. What will it take to get immigration reform in this country, or true enforcement of the existing laws that are actually on the books? Will the real Rosa Parks please refuse to stand up?

Image via Get Directly Down