Readers, you will be hearing a lot going forward about the “Sanctuary Movement” which at its height in the late 1980’s comprised over 300 US churches that were actively aiding and abetting the transport of illegal aliens from Central America, across the US Mexican border and to your towns—including to Takoma Park, Maryland. It is out of this movement that we got CASA de Maryland (I mentioned that here a few days ago) and the huge Central American immigrant population in the Washington, DC area.
If you worked on collecting signatures for the petition drive to get a referendum on the ballot for 2012 on whether Maryland taxpayers should subsidize the educations of illegal aliens, thank the “Sanctuary Movement.”
I’m simplifying because you will be hearing more details later, but “Sanctuary” was a sort of joint effort with leaders from the Catholic Church (the Chicago Liberation theology branch), some Presbyterian Churches and some Quakers (other denominations as well).
Although the Lefties thought it was loads of fun doing “runs” across the border to pick up their “cases” things deteriorated pretty quickly over which cases to bring—those who supported the communists (like FMLN or the Sandinista) or everyone in need of “humanitarian” assistance. They were united, however, in their opposition to Ronald Reagan.
The Chicago Catholics said only Leftist “refugees” should be helped and to punish the Presbyterians and the Quakers at one point they wouldn’t let the Tucson (Pres/Quakers) leadership have the list of sanctuary locations. All such lovely people!
They also squabbled over leadership with the Catholics claiming the Tucson workers were too male-dominated in their leadership—yes, the Catholics actually said that!
Meanwhile, those (housewives, church people, lawyers, etc.) who thought they were on the side of the angels by bringing thousands and thousands of illegal immigrants across the border began to understand that there was such a thing as ethnic nationalism as the Salvadorans would have nothing to do with the Guatemalans and vice versa. They might all be leftists, but ethnic tribalism still trumped politics! [Probably also the roots of the Central American gang conflicts of today—but I digress.]
Both the Guatemalans and the Salvadorans called the American do-gooder “Sanctuary” leaders too “paternalistic.”
But, here is the section of “God and Caesar at the Rio Grande“ that had me roaring with laughter last night. In January 1985 there was a national “Sanctuary” conference where many of the conflicts spilled out. [By the way, Quaker, Bette Rainbow Hoover, incorporated CASA de Maryland the next month in the Takoma Park Presbyterian Church.]
From “God and Caesar” (p.66):
While conference participants waded through the intellectual, theological, and organizational ramifications of Sanctuary, the more than three hundred church sanctuaries that had been declared by mid-1987 were dealing with problems of a different order. Many Sanctuary communities did not know how to handle some of the deep psychological problems refugee family members were manifesting as a result of torture, witnessing massacres, having family members “disappeared,” or leaving children behind. [not everyone had a horror story although Sanctuary would like you to think that—ed]. Nor did they know how to respond to pervasive domestic violence within the Central American families. Complex political divisions between and among Salvadorans and Guatemalans had also come across the border, and in some instances severely divided the Central American communities in Sanctuary.
Probably more than anything this up-close-and-personal look at reality (hey, we aren’t one big happy world!) took the wind out of the sails of most Sanctuary churches and the whole movement disintegrated a few years later. But, it was too late, these “church” do-gooders set in motion many of the problems we face in Maryland today with the large population of illegal immigrants who have been here for a couple of decades.
But, alas, and not at all humorous, they have begun a New Sanctuary Movement—a story for another day.