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Last Updated: Monday, 20 August 2007, 10:01 GMT 11:01 UK
Mother loses fight to stay in US
Elvira Arellano and her son, Saul (15 August 2007)
Ms Arellano said she was not afraid of being arrested by US authorities
A Mexican woman whose fight to stay in the US with her US-born son attracted national attention has been sent back to Mexico as an illegal immigrant.

Elvira Arellano was arrested in Los Angeles on Sunday afternoon and deported several hours later.

She became a prominent figure after taking refuge in a Chicago church for a year to avoid being separated from eight-year-old Saul, a US citizen.

He is staying with people who were with her when she was arrested.

Ms Arellano was handed over to Mexican authorities in Tijuana at 2200 (0500GMT) and freed, Mexican officials said.

Elvira Arellano and Saul made a powerful emotional case for keeping the families of illegal immigrants together.

Last November, Saul went to Mexico's Congress to make a personal appeal for help to stop his mother's deportation.

I only have two choices - I either go to my country, Mexico, or stay and keep fighting - I decided to stay and fight
Elvira Arellano

Ms Arellano took refuge in the Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago last August, defying a deportation order.

But this weekend she left the church to travel to Los Angeles to back calls for immigration reform.

On Saturday, Ms Arellano had said she was not afraid of being arrested by US immigration officials.

"From the time I took sanctuary the possibility has existed that they arrest me in the place and time they want," she said.

"I only have two choices. I either go to my country, Mexico, or stay and keep fighting. I decided to stay and fight."

Ms Arellano first came illegally to the US in 1997. She was deported but returned days later.

She settled in Chicago, working as a cleaner at O'Hare International Airport, where she was arrested in 2002 and convicted of being employed under a false Social Security number.

Defying the law

Ms Arellano was supposed to hand herself over for deportation on 15 August 2006, but instead sought refuge with her son at the Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago.

US authorities did not attempt to seize her from the church.

Immigrants' rights campaigners said they would stage protests and vigils to support her and demand her return to the US.

But a group favouring limits on immigration said her arrest was long overdue.

"Just because the woman has gone public and made an issue of the fact that she is defying law doesn't mean the government doesn't have to do its job," Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform told the Associated Press.

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