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Activist Immigrant Who Took Refuge In Chicago Church Returns To U.S.

(CBS) -- A Mexican immigrant who made international headlines seven years ago for living in a Chicago church while fighting to stay in the U.S. with her son before she was deported has returned from Mexico, seeking asylum for humanitarian reasons.

Elvira Arellano took refuge at Adalberto United Methodist Church in Humboldt Park for a year, until she was deported in August 2007, when she left the church in an effort to lobby Congress for immigration reform.

More than six years after she was deported, she re-entered the U.S. on Tuesday at the California border with Tijuana , Mexico. She was leading a group of protesters all seeking refuge for humanitarian reasons.

Arellano said her actions call attention to the plight of some 600,000 migrant Mexican families who have been split apart by the deportation of parents who entered the U.S. illegally, separating them from children who were born in the U.S., and are citizens.

Her oldest son, Saul, is now 14. He was born in the U.S. and initially stayed here after his mother was deported, but later joined her in Mexico.

While they were there, Elvira Arrellano founded a home for deported migrants, and began speaking publicly about the complexity of their lives and the difficulties their families face due to deportation.

Arellano and her son crossed into the U.S. on Tuesday, along with her 4-year-old son Emiliano. They were with a group of Mexican and Central American migrants, many deported mothers with their U.S.-born children.

At the border, Arellano asked to be allowed into the U.S. on humanitarian grounds, because she has received kidnapping and death threats.

There were about 80 adults and 50 children in the group Arellano led into the United States. All have been taken into custody by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

It has not yet been determined if Arellano and the others will be deported to Mexico, or allowed to stay.

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