Thursday, February 28, 2008

Elvira and Rosa

Elvira Arellano has been deported to Mexico, but a new courageous woman has stood up for immigrant rights, Flor Crisostomo has taken refuge in the Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago. Let me take this moment to make a tactical suggestion for the immigrant rights movement. While Arellano was seeking refuge, many supporters compared her to Rosa Parks. I see many similarities between the two. Both were courageous women who fought for justice.

However there are also many differences. In one sense, Arellano is less like Rosa Parks and more like Claudette Colvin. Colvin was a black woman who refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus, but whose case didn't mobilize the community the way Rosa Parks would later.

I think the most important difference between Arellano and Parks has to do with the movement and their demands. The whole time Arellano was in Adalberto United Methodist Church, she only requested amnesty for herself. She even asked Senators Obama and Durbin to take one person off the list of immigrants allowed into the country to allow her to take their place. In some ways this would be like Rosa Parks saying that she only cared about herself sitting in the front of the bus.

This should not have discouraged supporters though. If Arellano succeeded, it would open the door for other immigrants to get amnesty like that. But that's why Arellano didn't succeed. Because it was one person, and not many. If one person walks off the job and calls in a strike, they win nothing, they just get fired. Same goes with civil disobedience. If the Montgomery Bus boycott, which followed and supported Rosa Parks, wasn't made up of the entire community, it would have failed.

My suggestion to the immigrant community: have thousands of immigrants seek sanctuary in churches, it will be more than a nuisance for Homeland Security, it will be a serious threat to it's authority and ability to operate.

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