Academic journal article Refuge

Legacies and Origins of the 1980s US-Central American Sanctuary Movement

Academic journal article Refuge

Legacies and Origins of the 1980s US-Central American Sanctuary Movement

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article re-examines the US-Central American sanctuary movement of the 1980s. Our re-examination is motivated by two factors. First, with the passage of time it is possible to discern the movement's origins in ways that could not be fully articulated while it was ongoing. We are able to show how certain relationships between the movement's North and Central American activists were celebrated, while others were obscured due to fear for Salvadoran immigrant activists' safety and concern about inadvertently undermining the movement's legitimacy. Specifically, we draw attention to the movement's transnational nature, noting that what made it so powerful was its origin as part of a broader effort by Salvadoran revolutionaries to mobilize North American society to oppose US support for the Salvadoran government. Ironically, to achieve this objective Salvadoran immigrant activists had to stay quiet, become invisible, and abstain from taking certain leadership roles, while embracing identities that may have implied weakness or passivity, such as "refugee" or "victim." Second, the US-Central American sanctuary movement provides powerful insight into future understandings of sanctuary as a concept and practice. The movement's legacies extend beyond participants' stated goals, while the movement's transnational political and organizational focus differentiates it from current sanctuary practices. Thus, re-examining its origins and legacies suggests that apparent similarities in the form of sanctuary incidents may hide underlying differences and that current sanctuary practices may also eventually have unanticipated consequences.

Resume

Cet article examine a nouveau le << sanctuary movement >> aux Etats-Unis et en Amerique centrale durant les annees 1980. Deux facteurs expliquent ce reexamen. (1), avec le passage du temps, il est possible de discerner les origines du mouvement qui ne pouvaient pas etre entierement articulees alors qu'il etait en cours. Nous sommes en mesure de montrer comment certaines relations entre activistes nordamericains et leurs contreparties centre-americaines ont ete fetees, tandis que d'autres ont ete occultees par crainte pour la securite des militants salvadoriens pro immigration et par peur d'accidentellement miner la legitimite du mouvement. Plus precisement, nous attirons l'attention sur la nature transnationale du mouvement, soulignant que ce qui l'a rendu si puissant sont ses origines dans le cadre d'un effort plus large par les revolutionnaires salvadoriens en vue de mobiliser la societe nord-americaine en opposition a l'appui des Etats-Unis pour le pouvoir salvadorien. Ironie du sort, pour atteindre cet objectif les militants salvadoriens ont du rester muets, devenir invisibles et s'abstenir de prendre certains roles de leadership, tout en affichant des identites, comme << refugie >> ou << victime >>, qui pouvaient implicitement signifier la faiblesse ou la passivite. 2, le << sanctuary movement >> des Etats-Unis et de l'Amerique centrale dorme un puissant apercu de notre comprehension future de la notion de sanctuaire en tant que concept et pratique. Le legs du mouvement va au-dela des objectifs declares des participants, alors que son accent transnational, politique et organisationnel le differencie des pratiques actuelles. Ainsi, un reexamen des origines du mouvement et de son heritage suggere que des similitudes apparentes sous la forme de cas de sanctuaire peuvent masquer des differences sous-jacentes et que les pratiques actuelles du sanctuaire peuvent aussi avoir des consequences eventuelles imprevues.

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Given the proliferation of sanctuary activities internationally and the emergence of the new sanctuary movement in the United States, (1) it is worthwhile to re-examine what may be the best-known instance of sanctuary practices: the US-Central American sanctuary movement of the 1980s. …

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