‘And What About Us?’ : Migrants From Chicago Continue to Fight for Immigration Reform and Labor Rights

In 2006, Elvira Arellano sought refuge in a Chicago church to avoid being deported and separated from her U.S.-born son Saúl. Her story made national headlines and even made her Time magazine’s 2006 Person of the Year.

Arellano was deported in 2007 but returned to the U.S. after applying for asylum in 2014. In 2017, a U.S. immigration court granted her a stay of removal.

Today, she continues her work in defense of human rights as the founder of La Familia Latina Unida, a Chicago-based illegal immigration advocacy organization. She stood before hundreds of people and organizations in support of immigrant rights at Chicago’s 2022 May Day March from Union Park to the Haymarket Memorial.

“May Day is a day to commemorate the martyrs of Chicago and all those who have fought before us,” Arellano said. “Today we are here to rebuild our fight, not only to improve our wages and benefits, but also to continue fighting and get out of the shadows.”

Between inflation and Covid-19, Americans have faced an uphill battle to earn a living and access child care. These economic difficulties are intensified for an often overlooked segment of the workforce: undocumented immigrants.

Undocumented workers make up about four percent of the essential U.S. workforce and 17 percent of the nation’s overall workforce, and hold a variety of low-paying and high-paying jobs, according to FWD.us. Following the onset of the pandemic, millions became susceptible to unemployment and Covid-19 infection.

“Our immigrant families were the front-line workers who kept this economy going,” Saúl Arellano said. “Many of them lost their lives. They did everything for this country. Today is the reason why we stand with them and are ready to fight for their rights.”

Last September, the workers of the El Milagro tortilla factory, one of the most popular manufacturers of tortillas across the nation, began their demonstration for safer working conditions, better wages and hours and Sundays off.

By Stephania Rodriguez
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