MEXICO CITY (AP) – Mexico’s Congress was swayed Tuesday by a 7-year-old boy on a mission to save his mom.

Second-grader Saul Arellano, a U.S. citizen, appeared in Mexico’s 500-member Chamber of Deputies to plead for help in lobbying Washington to stop the deportation of his mother, an illegal immigrant who has taken refuge in a Chicago church.

His efforts paid off with a resolution calling on the U.S. Congress to suspend the deportation of Elvira Arellano and any other illegal immigrant parents of U.S. citizens.

If the U.S. agrees, it would “create a precedent that will benefit more than 4.9 million children who have been born in the United States and whose parents live under the threat of deportation,” said Mexican congressman Jose Jacques, who lived in the United States for 33 years and has an American daughter and granddaughter.

Flashing cameras and swarms of reporters surrounded the boy as he entered the chamber. Lawmakers rose from their seats to shake his hand. But instead of stepping to the podium, he was swept into a side room, where he hid his face and ducked under a table.

“I think being so small he was kind of freaked,” family friend Jesus Carlin said.

Saul then took the microphone and spoke to reporters in Spanish, describing what he wanted from Mexico’s lawmakers: “I want them to tell President Bush to end the deportations so that my mother and other families can stay together in the United States.”

U.S. officials say there is no right to sanctuary in a church under U.S. law, and nothing to prevent them from arresting Elvira Arellano, who has lived at the church since Aug. 15, the day she was supposed to surrender for deportation. So far, they have not moved to seize her.

Saul and his mother live on the second floor of the church, where a small bedroom is crowded with the boy’s toys and schoolbooks. They have a miniature pinscher, Daisy, to keep them company.

Arellano, 31, said she was nervous about sending her son to Mexico, and Saul was afraid she would be deported while he was away. “I told him to be calm, everything would be fine and I would be here waiting for him,” she told The Associated Press in Chicago.

President Vicente Fox, who leaves office Dec. 1, failed during his six-year term to persuade the U.S. Congress to approve a migration accord allowing thousands of Mexicans to work legally in the United States. While Bush personally supports a temporary guest-worker program, Republicans in Congress opted to strengthen border security instead.

Arellano said she should not have to choose between leaving her son or taking away his rightful opportunities as an American. But conservative columnists and anti-illegal immigration activists say Arellano put herself and her son in this difficult spot by repeatedly breaking the law.

Arellano illegally crossed into the United States in 1997 and was quickly sent back. She returned within days, living for three years in Oregon before moving to Chicago in 2000. Her current troubles began when she was arrested at O’Hare International Airport, where she worked as a cleaning woman. Convicted of working under a false Social Security number, she served three years probation before being ordered to appear at the immigration office in Chicago.

Fox’s spokesman Ruben Aguilar acknowledges that Arellano broke U.S. law, but “we think there exist certain elements of a humanitarian nature that should be taken into account to avoid splitting up the family.”



AP writer Megan Reichgott contributed to this report from Chicago.

AP-ES-11-14-06 1628EST


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