Still Seeking Sanctuary

In These Times, April 2018 | Go to article overview

Still Seeking Sanctuary


TODAY, SANCTUARY CITIES-JURISDICtions that limit cooperation between local police and federal immigration officials- are under assault. Donald Trump, who built his campaign on the vilification of undocumented immigrants, is escalating his attack on the sanctuary movement, threatening 23 local jurisdictions with subpoenas and funding cuts unless they agree to aid federal immigration enforcement.

It's not the first time sanctuary has come under fire. Contemporary sanctuary efforts are the legacy of a powerful movement to shield Central American immigrants fleeing U.S.-backed wars in the 1980s. Then, too, the federal government tried to crack down. In October 1985, Moe Snell reported for In These Times from the Sacred Heart Church in Nogales, Ariz., where a group of church workers who helped refugees cross the border were preparing to stand trial:

The U.S. government has charged the "Tucson 12"-dubbed this because their trial will be held in Tucson, Ariz.-with a long list of criminal acts that include helping refugees find their way across the border, transporting them to shelters and giving them advice on how best to continue their journey. They are also charged with housing, feeding and clothing the same refugees.

Their indictment signals a high-stakes gamble by the Reagan administration. The trial will either serve effectively to put a lid on North American church involvement with Central American refugees-which is highly unlikely-or it will focus attention on Reagan's foreign and domestic policy with regard to Central America. …

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