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Sanctuary National Gathering Held In Wake Of Convictions

Sanctuary National Gathering Held In Wake Of Convictions image Sanctuary National Gathering Held In Wake Of Convictions image
Parent Issue
Month
June
Year
1986
Copyright
Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held By
Agenda Publications
OCR Text

TUSCON--On May 1, in a trial watched closely by the entire country for its precedent setting impact, eight of eleven Sanctuary workers were proclaimed guilty in Circuit Court of various counts of conspiracy and aiding, abetting and transporting illegal aliens. Ten days later, over 500 people from across the country have gathered here to rally against those guilty verdicts, and to reaffirm our committment to the Sanctuary movement. We are nuns, lawyers, priests, Central American refugees, and laypersons of many faiths and political ideologies. We have come togethcr to make a statement to our govemment, to the American people and to each other. The statement: we will continue. After two years of govemment harrassment and intimidation, an unfair trial will not stop our movement, a movement deeply rooted in moral and religious convictions. Sanctuary and the U.S. govemment: Conflicting views During its six year history, the Sanctuary movement has brought to light the plight of political refugees from Guatemala and El Salvador who after fleeing war and terror in their own countries are denied asylum in the U.S. Fearing for the lives of the refugees should they be deported, over 225 churches and synagogues, some 20 cities, several universities and the state of New Mexico have declared themselves Sanctuaries, and offer safe haven for these Central Americans. Accused by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) of entering the U.S. solely for economie reasons, the refugees are bcing deported by the hundreds each month, most of them without ever receiving legal aid. Despite the well-documented reports of human righis violations in these countries by respected groups such as Amnesty International, the United Nations and the International Red Cross, less than 3% of Salvadoran applications for political asylum in the U.S. are granted each year and less than 1% of Guatemalan applications are accepted. xe SANCTUARY page 15) SANCTUARY (cont. from page one) To the constcrnation of the U.S. government, the Sanctuary Movemenf has not been content to deal merely with the symptoms of the refugee problem, it has become increasingly vocal about its root causes. Sanctuary workers and the refugees themselves are speaking out about the U.S. funded air war and the para-military death squad activity in El Salvador. They are denouncing the virtual genocide of the indigenous peoples of Guatemala and their forced relocation into Vietnam style "strategie hamlets" controlled exclusively by the military. Although the Sanctuary Movement has received a fair amount of national media attention, many related issues have not. The situation in the border areas, INS treatment of refugees and related "disinformation" campaigns, reveal a blatant disregard for human rights on the part of our government and some very disturbing flaws in our legal system. The border situation According to the Wall Street Journal recently, there has been a 40% rise in the arrest of illegal aliens by the INS and a large inercase in the number of patrolmcn at the border. Much of the work of apprehending the immigrants is being accomplished with sophisticated war-related technology: helicopters, devices which can detect heartbeats in trailors and car trunks, and sensors developed for combat use in Vietnam which are implanted in fields along the border and trigger computers at Border Control Headquarters. Captured refugees are taken to prisons or INS detention centers to await trial or deportation on "death flights" as they are known. Many of the refugee support people that I met in Tuscon spoke of overcrowding and abusive conditions in the detention centers, insufficient legal and social services, and inhumane treatment of refugees. They described the common scenario in which jailed refugees, so traumatized that they can barely speak their own language, are confronted by armed INS officers who hand them a pen and a paper written in English and motion to them to sign their own orders for deportation. Refugees have reponed beatings, robberies, isolation and even torture. Since Sanctuary workers began posting bond for refugees, the government has steadily raised the average price from $500 to $4000 per adulL The usual bond for a baby or a small child is $1000. At these prices, Sanctuary can only help a tiny fraction of the flood of refugees who enter each month. As part of the overall escalation of INS border activity, a huge Federal Alien Detention Center, to be jointly operated by the Bureau of Prisons and the INS, has recently been constructed in Oakdale, Louisiana. Oakdale is close enough to Texas to "process" refugees entering the Rio Grande Valley. Three times the size of the average INS detention center, the Oakdale facility houses eight courtrooms and has a holding capacity of 1000; an adjoining contíngency tent site could hold 5,000 in case of an "immigration emergency". It is predicted that 800 refugees a week, will pass through the Center, a staggering 35,000 to 40,000 annually. Refugee service organizations and immigration lawyers fear that the isolated location of the Oakdale facility will greatly inhibit the provisión of legal and Spanish-speaking services for refugees and result in denial of asylum and mass deporta Uíüons. Disinformation INS tactics for dealing with the refugees work hand in hand with a massive disinformation campaign to instill fear and hatred of Hispanic refugees. Media accounts teil of a massive escalation in drug, smuggling and criminal activity on the border. A recent Wall Street Journal article claimcd that terrorists are inñltrating America through the Mexican border in response to the U.S. attack on Libya. Another common argument is that increased job competition is due to immigration in áreas which are already suffering from unemployment. These stories, whether real or fabricated, are used to heighten tensión between refugees and townspeople in border communitics, as well as to drum up support forINSpolicies. In the face of government attacks, in the face of the massive injustices perpetrated against refugees, in the face of the enormity of the entire problem, Sanctuary struggles on. It has sent out an urgent cali to all of us: edúcate yourself, edúcate others, take action! Human rights must be upheld individually, as an act of faith, an act of conscience. Suggested Actions In preparation for the sentencing of Sanctuary Workers on July lst in Tucson, Arizona: Send personal letters to: Judge Earl Carroll Room 6000 Federal Building 230 North First Ave. Phoenix, Arizona 85025 Suggested points to include: 1. Your background and reason for concern. 2. Remarks about how you've been moved by the defendants actions. 3. Religious roots of Sanctuary and caring for the needy. 4. Your own understanding of what is going on in Central America. Send copies to: 1. Attorney General Edwin Méese U.S. Department of Justicc Constitution Ave. and lOth St.,N.W. Washington, D.C. 20530 2. Your local Congressperson 3. Senator Dennis DeConcini 3230 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.Washigton, D.C. 20510 4. Rep. Joe Moakley 221 Canon House Office Bldg. Washington, D.C. 20515 5. Local newspaper (see page 20 for more "Actions")

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