Thu, Nov 16, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Seven-year-old boy sways Mexican Congress

AP , MEXICO CITY

Saul Arellano, bottom left, talks with reporters at the Mexican Congress in Mexico City, Mexico, on Tuesday after pleading for lawyers' help in lobbying Washington to stop the deportation of his mother.

PHOTO: AP

Mexico's Congress was swayed by a seven-year-old boy on a mission to save his mom.

Second-grader Saul Arellano, a US citizen, appeared on Tuesday in Mexico's 500-member Chamber of Deputies to plead for help in lobbying Washington to stop the deportation of his mother, an illegal immigrant who has taken refuge in a Chicago church.

His efforts paid off, with a unanimous resolution calling on the administration of US President George W. Bush to suspend the deportation of Elvira Arellano and any other illegal immigrant parents of US citizens.

If Bush agrees, it would "create a precedent that will benefit more than 4.9 million children who have been born in the United States and whose parents live under the threat of deportation," said Representative Jose Jacques, himself a migrant in the US for 33 years who has an American daughter and granddaughter.

Flashing cameras and swarms of reporters surrounded the boy as he entered the cavernous chamber. But instead of stepping up to the podium, he was swept into a side room, where he hid his face and ducked under a table after lawmakers rose from their seats to shake his hand.

"I think being so small he was kind of freaked," family friend Jesus Carlin said.

Saul then took the microphone and speaking softly in Spanish, described what he wanted from Mexico's lawmakers: "I want them to tell President Bush to end the deportations so that my mother and other families can stay together in the United States."

US federal officials say there is no right to sanctuary in a church under US law and nothing to prevent them from arresting Elvira Arellano, who has lived at the church since Aug. 15, the day she was supposed to surrender for deportation. But so far, they have not moved to seize her, and support for their case has grown among US politicians.

Arellano, 31, said she was nervous about sending her son, who has never traveled to Mexico. Saul was afraid his mother would be deported while he was gone.

"I told him to be calm, everything would be fine and I would be here waiting for him," she said.

Mexican President Vicente Fox failed during his six-year term to persuade the US Congress to approve a migration accord which would thousands of Mexicans to work legally in the US.

While Bush personally supports a temporary guest-worker program, Republicans in Congress opted to strengthen border security instead.

Arellano said she should not have to choose between leaving her son or taking away his rightful opportunities as an American. But conservative columnists and anti-illegal immigration activists say Arellano put herself and her son in this difficult position by repeatedly breaking the law.

Arellano illegally crossed into the US in 1997 and was sent back. She returned within days, living for three years in Oregon before moving to Chicago. Her current troubles began when she was arrested at O'Hare International Airport, where she worked as a cleaning woman.

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