Second woman seeks sanctuary in Chicago church

Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago has opened its doors once again to a woman seeking protection from deportation to Mexico.

Flor Crisóstomo, 28, says she is "picking up the torch" from Elvira Arelleno, another congregation member who lived in the church for a year before leaving last August. Arelleno was arrested and deported within days of leaving Chicago and arriving in Los Angeles, where she had planned to speak out for compassionate immigration reform.

"Today we respond as a church to another request for sanctuary from one of our members," said a statement released Jan. 28 by the church. "We respond by standing together with her as Jesus calls us to do."

Crisóstomo has three children, ages 9 to 14, and an elderly mother she supports in Mexico with wages she earns in the United States. She came to the United States illegally in 2000. She said she was following her two brothers to the United States because the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) had put many farmers out of work in Mexico and she could not feed her children in her hometown of Guerrero.

Elvira Arellano received sanctuary at thechurch for a year before being deported. A UMNS file photo by Paul Jeffrey.

Elvira Arellano received sanctuary at thechurch for a year before being deported. A UMNS file photo by Paul Jeffrey.

Crisóstomo took refuge in the Chicago church on Jan. 28, her last day for leaving the United States voluntarily under an order by the U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals. She had been arrested by immigration authorities in April 2006 in a workplace raid at IFCO Systems, a manufacturer of crates and pallets in Chicago. She was released pending her immigration hearing and subsequent appeal, which was denied last November.

"I hate the system of undocumented labor," she said in a Jan. 28 statement. "It has separated me from my children for seven years. I believe with all my heart that Mexico and the United States together must end this system."

A statement issued by the Chicago office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the judicial process had given Crisóstomo more than enough time to comply with the law and that Crisóstomo is now considered an immigration fugitive.

The congregation of Adalberto United Methodist Church, which is in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, is "100 percent behind Flor," said the Rev. Walter Coleman, pastor of church.

Coleman said Crisóstomo knows her stand puts her at risk of going to prison, but she wants "to make America see" what is happening to millions of undocumented immigrants.

"I believe with all my heart that Mexico and the United States together must end this system." — Flor Crisóstomo

"We are inspired by her," he said.

Coleman said Arellano, who lived in the church with her son, Saul, is doing well back in Mexico and is still campaigning for immigration reform. Saul, who was born in the United States and was 8 when his mother was deported, initially lived with the Colemans in Chicago but has since been reunited with Arellano.

"It was a long spiritual journey but she is well," Coleman said. "Saul told me 'Pastor, I am adjusting.'"

Meanwhile, Arellano told The Associated Press she hopes the immigrant community in the United States will rally around Crisóstomo the way they did her.

"Undocumented immigrants are living there in the darkness, fearing deportation and being separated from their families," she told The AP on Jan. 29, the day after Crisóstomo sought sanctuary.

Crisóstomo said the current policy of raids and deportations make people live in fear but will not end the system of undocumented labor.

"We cannot go home to hungry eyes and we cannot leave our families here," she said.

*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].

Related Articles

Arrest of mother puts 'human face' on immigration

Resources

Northern Illinois Annual Conference

United Methodist Board of Church and Society


Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community. Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Sign up for our newsletter!

UMNEWS-SUBSCRIPTION
Human Rights
A view of the U.S. Supreme Court. United Methodists have varied reactions after the Supreme Court on June 24 overturned Roe v. Wade, holding that there is no longer a federal constitutional right to an abortion. Photo courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol.

United Methodists react to end of Roe v. Wade

United Methodists alternately expressed fear and contentment with the U.S. Supreme Court decision released June 24 that holds there is no longer a federal constitutional right to an abortion.
Immigration
People wade or ride rafts made from inner tubes across the Suchiate River, which forms part of the border between Guatemala and Mexico, near Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico. The busy, informal crossing is used by migrants as well as by people hauling commercial cargo in both directions. A ride across on one of the inner tube rafts usually costs between 10 and 20 Guatemalan quetzals, roughly $1.25-$2.50 U.S. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Church leaders explore ways to help migrants in Mexico

A group of leaders from the Methodist Church of Mexico and The United Methodist Church traveled to southern Mexico in April to meet with groups working with immigrants crossing into the country.
Immigration
Migrants at a makeshift camp near the border crossing in Tijuana, Mexico, receive food and other relief supplies from the New Covenant Methodist Church and San Pablo Evangelical Church in Tijuana. Some 1,500 immigrants settled there, many of them hoping to file asylum claims with U.S. immigration authorities. Photo by Mike DuBose, UM News.

Mothers on border share stories of desperation, hope

Three immigrant mothers describe the ordeals they have faced fleeing crime and violence in hope of finding a better life in the U.S.