Chicago church to give sanctuary to advocate of immigrant rights

By Sophia Tareen

CHICAGO – Leaders of a Chicago church where an illegal immigrant from Mexico took sanctuary for a year before being deported say they plan to house another immigration activist who is set on defying a deportation order.

Flor Crisóstomo, 28, an illegal immigrant who came to the U.S. in 2001, was slated to report to federal immigration officials on Monday, but the head of Adalberto United Methodist Church said she will seek refuge at the church in the same way as immigration activist Elvira Arellano, who was deported to Mexico last August.

“She wanted to continue the struggle,” Rev. Walter Coleman said of Crisóstomo. “That’s what the church is for, to provide space where the truth can be told. She brings out the truth of the situation in a different way than Elvira did.”

Crisóstomo’s attorney, Chris Bergin, planned to submit a letter to immigration officials Monday, outlining his client’s decision to stay in the U.S. illegally.

Crisóstomo, who declined requests to speak with reporters until Monday, immigrated without papers to Chicago from Oaxaca in Mexico seven years ago. She took a job with IFCO Systems, a manufacturer of crates and pallets, and was arrested during raids on company sites nationwide in 2006.

Her three children, two boys and a girl, live in Mexico with their maternal grandmother; Crisóstomo is unmarried.

“I am taking a stand of civil disobedience …” she said in prepared remarks to be read Monday, which were sent to The Associated Press. “I believe with all my heart that the United States and Mexico must end the system of undocumented labor.”

Crisóstomo, who has been an immigration activist in the Chicago area and fasted with Arellano in protest of immigration policies, said she could not support her family if she returned to Mexico.

Immigration activists such as Coleman claim that by living at the church – apart from her three children – Crisóstomo brings attention to how they believe immigration policies in the U.S. need attention.

Activists from the church and the Chicago immigration rights group Centro Sin Fronteras claim that economic situations have deteriorated in Mexico because of NAFTA and other U.S. policies, creating dire situations that cause illegal immigration.

“The current policies are driving people further and further underground,” Coleman said. “That’s the reason she came in the first place. She’s saying that you need to fix the system here.”