Elvira Arellano captured our attention last week. About a year ago she was taken in Sanctuary by Alberto United Methodist Church in Chicago. Elvira and her eight year-old son, Saul, lived in the church for just over 12 months.
Elvira is an undocumented alien who was working at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport where she cleaned airplanes to support the two of them. Her son is a US citizen. The church supported her in an attempt to prevent her from being deported.
This last week, while traveling between churches in Los Angeles where she was speaking about the plight of undocumented aliens, she was arrested. She was deported to Tijuana the next day.
Our Peregrini centered upon the role of the Church (if any) in providing sanctuary for those who seek it. The conversation covered a wide range of possibilities whereby some might seek sanctuary. While no resolution was derived there was lively debate about the legitimacy of someone who has committed a crime seeking solace under the grace of the church.
The most stunning part of the evening came after the official conversation while we cleaning up. When we started the evening I apologized for not being able to remember this woman’s name. While we were cleaning up Tyler reminded me that her name is Elvira. He told me he had heard lots of conversation about this topic on talk-radio. One commentator couldn’t remember the woman’s name and he remarked, “it doesn’t really matter.” Tyler said it does matter because without a name and face we can forget that we are talking about real people with hurts and pains just like ours. Thanks for reminding me Tyler and I pray not to forget Elvira and her Saul.