Image: Immigration protesters in Los Angeles
Protesters carry a portrait of immigration activist Elvira Arellano and her 8-year-old son, Saul, during a demonstration in Los Angeles on Saturday. Arellano was deported after leaving a Chicago church where she had taken refuge to draw attention to the plight of illegal immigrant parents.
updated 8/25/2007 10:46:28 PM ET 2007-08-26T02:46:28

Immigrant rights activists marched through downtown Saturday in support of a deported illegal immigrant who spent nearly a year huddled inside a Chicago church to avoid being separated from her U.S.-born son.

Elvira Arellano, 32, was sent back to her native Mexico last weekend after traveling to Los Angeles to attend a rally for the overhaul of U.S. immigration laws.

“It’s an effort by all immigrant rights groups to come together and re-energize the whole movement, in solidarity with Elvira,” said college student Marylou Cabral, 20.

Police closed off streets as hundreds of demonstrators, including many families with young children, marched up Broadway carrying large photos of Arellano and her 8-year-old son, Saul. Others waved flags, banged drums or raised placards reading “We are all Elvira!”

Organizers said more than 2,000 people demonstrated, but authorities said it was closer to 600.

At the end of the march, a stage was set up and dozens of speakers called for a path to citizenship for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country.

Arellano became an activist and a symbol for illegal immigrant parents by defying her deportation order and speaking out from her sanctuary in Chicago’s Adalberto United Methodist Church, where she had stayed with her son since Aug. 15, 2006.

She recently announced that she was leaving Chicago to lobby lawmakers in Washington, D.C. On Sunday, shortly after she spoke at a rally in a Los Angeles church, she was detained by immigration agents and deported.

Arellano is now residing in Tijuana, only about 100 miles from where she says she entered the United States illegally in 1997.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it deported 149,376 people from Oct. 1 to June 18, mainly by targeting homes, offices and factories. That’s on pace to match last year’s total of nearly 200,000 and far higher than the annual tallies in the early part of this decade.

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