Elvira Arellano entered the United States illegally in 1997 and was apprehended and deported back to Mexico by the United States government. She returned within days and lived illegally for three years in Oregon.
In 1999, she gave birth to a son, Saul Arellano, whose father remains unnamed by Elvira. Due to the 14th Amendment, which grants birthright citizenship, Saul is a United States citizen.
In 2000, Arellano moved to Chicago and worked as a cleaning woman at O'Hare International Airport.
In 2002, following a post-September 11 security sweep, she was arrested and convicted of Social Security Fraud. Arellano was ordered to appear before immigration authorities on August 15, 2006.
Instead of complying with the court order and to avoid arrest and deportation, on that date she took refuge in the Adalberto United Methodist church in the Humboldt Park area of Chicago, which maintained it was a sanctuary for illegal immigrants. Before that, she sought safe haven for a year in Amor De Dios United Methodist Church with Pastor José S. Landaverde, who begun the new immigrant sanctuary movement in Illinois.
On November 14, 2006, in Mexico City, Saul Arellano appeared before the Congress of Mexico. The Mexican lawmakers passed a resolution to urge the United States government to suspend the deportation of Arellano and other parents of children who are United States citizens.
She was arrested on August 19, 2007 in Los Angeles. Within hours of her arrest Arellano was repatriated to Mexico by U.S. federal agents in compliance with an existing deportation order. She was accompanied to the Mexican border by an official of the Mexican consulate in San Diego, California, as well as by agents of the U.S. government.