Elvira Arellano, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, has taken refuge at a Methodist church in Chicago since last August. For some of the people marching in tomorrow's immigration rallies, she has become a symbol of the complications involved in the debate over illegal immigration.
The legal issue is clear. Arellano is here illegally after first coming to the United States in 1997, and there are orders for her deportation. On the other than hand, she has a child who is an American citizen because he was born on American soil. What happens to him? Should his need for a mom affect what happens to Arellano?
With Arellano's story on the minds of many here in Chicago, I've been asking would-be marchers why they plan to demonstrate so publicly. The people we've interviewed so far say the answer is rooted in poverty.
They say they will march because they want to show Americans that there are hardworking, good people living in the shadows of their society. They say they will march because there is no alternative; the poverty is so bad where they are from that they are willing to take risk deportation in order to change immigration policy.
Many tell us that current policy is a contradiction. Arellano's son is 8 years old. If she leaves, he could stay behind in the United States and become a taxpayer-supported ward of the state. Yet his mother, even though she's here illegally, paid taxes, owns a home, and has paid for her son's upbringing. So deporting Arellano could actually wind up costing American taxpayers more money than letting her stay.
If you multiply that cost by the estimated 3-4 million parents and children in similar circumstances -- legal kids, illegal parents -- then you're talking about a large burden on taxpayers. How to deal with this situation is not necessarily straightforward and clear.
The people who are marching say they want an immigration policy that doesn't contain these kinds of contradictions. Arellano's argument is simpler: I'm a mother and I need to be with my son. Her son, meantime, has been traveling the country and lobbying for her to be allowed to stay.
-- By Soledad O'Brien, CNN Special Correspondent