In the 1980s, the United States experienced a refugee crisis. Thousands of Central Americans were fleeing civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, traveling north through Mexico, and crossing the border into the U.S. [Note: Just tuning in? Listen to … Continue reading →
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent, invisible, I'm roman Mars in the nineteen Eightys, the United States experienced a refugee crisis thousands of central Americans were fleeing brutal civil wars in El Salvador, and Guatemala They were traveling nor through Mexico, in crossing the border into the. U S, covered this history in the show last week, if you haven't heard that episode yet go within now. This is part two in response to this mass migration and network if churches across the country declared themselves sanctuaries. That's producer delay the in defiance of federal policy. Some of these churches helped smuggle central Americans across the border and offered shelter to people who are threatened with deportation and most of the churches did this publicly without trying to hide what we're doing by the men. Nineteen eightys the sanctuary movement had become very visible and also very controversial. Here's a report that Airline NBC around that time
in the eyes of the congregation at Saint marries. Church they are here in the eyes of the federal government. They are criminals who smuggle aliens into this country illegally didn't like that. Churches were openly define immigration law in harbouring undocumented immigrants. The immigration and naturalisation service, now known as immigration and customs enforcement or ice contended, that many of these people didn't have legitimate asylum claims. The agency stance was that many of these migrants had come to the: U S, to find jobs, not because they feared political persecution, refugee from El Salvador, the administration contents he and others like him- have come here for economic reasons, but the young man listed. Other reasons for fleeing is homeland, Matanzas, Kelly, young repression, Zambia, Syria and hunger. The. U S, government found itself in a tough situation. They could allow that
just to continue openly disregarding the law or they could Launch an investigation into the movement and risk public disapproval by targeting sympathetic, church workers. Immunity me before launched an investigation into the sanctuary movement. They called it operation Sojourner a biblical turn for traveller or wanderer the goal was to collect enough evidence to indict the leaders of the movement and to stop churches from sheltering migrants. The end the would eventually raise big questions about the freedom of religion and the right of churches to declare themselves protected spaces free from government intrusion This is an issue that playing out in the news again today as churches and our institutions, anticipate large scale, deportations under President Donald Trump Guy, giving in swiftly removing illegal immigrants from this. Not down demonstrate
yours outside the immigration Office in Colorado, supporting a mother of four from Mexico genetically scare. Currently in twenty, seventy Many churches are starting to shelter, undocumented immigrants. Once again in this episode, we're gonna look back at what happened in the nineteen eighties. Last time, a big confrontation happened between the federal government and sanctuary churches In nineteen eighty four shortly after the government launched its investigation, a couple of new volunteers approached members of the sanctuary movement asking if they could get involved. Their names were he's was crews and Solomon Grand. I thought they don't. Fit the usual sanctuary, volunteer profile, They look a little tough and little to be experienced on the border for the average volunteer.
Get. This is Reverend John Fife back in the nineteen eighties. He was there faster at South Side, presbyterian Church into some Arizona. He helped found the sanctuary movement and five said that, even though crews and Graham seemed a little different somehow it was policy. To welcome all who said they wanted to help crucifixes around their necks and they presented themselves, is folks who heard about the sanctuary movement and wanted to be a part of it. So we welcome them and included Amid crews and ground began attending meetings and helping transport central american migrants through the sanctuary network, they would drive folks from two signed, a Phoenix or from Phoenix to Albert Kirkhi or from Phoenix Delay, so they would drive legs on the underground rail road, but is it would turn out crews in Graham, were not ordinary volunteers? They were under.
Cover informants. The government had hired them to infiltrate the movement and gather evidence, crews and Graham, were both former smugglers. They'd worked on the border is guides, bringing people into the country illegally. Then they'd been caught by immigration, and they had reached an agreement that, if they would in bill trade us and inform The government about what we were doing, that that they would not only pay them better but dropped the charges against them. The iron ass had decided to investigate the sanctuary movement using the same tactics they might use against any criminal smuggling enterprise, the aid, he wasn't swayed by the religious motivations of people like reverent, five. Here's Alan Nelson then, commissioner, of Iron S, speaking with ABC in nineteen eighty five if you and I are meeting in a church, building the plan to rob a bank and open with a prayer and closed with a prayer- I don't know
Many people would say this is a church service that should be protected. They have the right to think what they want. Anybody does that doesn't exclude them from, obeying the wells or the United States. This Ruth admire, she became the iron as district director for Arizona in nineteen. Eighty four, she didn't Foresee the investigation into the sanctuary movement, but she was briefed on it when she arrived at the Phoenix Office jail. I was totally surprised in experience. I had no knowledge before of a church. Breaking the law and harbouring illegal aliens smuggling and harbouring higher says the case was pretty straightforward. These people were breaking the law, the law of the United States. I am in favour of. Excuse me, go immigration, but not illegal immigration. I think we have the right. To have our laws and to enforce them and decide
who comes into this country and who does crews and, Graham, along with a couple of other government agent spent ten months under cover, gathering evidence against the sanctuary workers. Their methods would have actually come under public scrutiny, because They hadn't just infiltrated the sanctuary movement. They were also secretly recording means conversations and, in some cases, church services or the bar Guy, these undercover methods truck some people as offensive in overreaching. Here's Anthony Louis than a professor at Harvard LAW, school speaking, the ABC News in nineteen. Eighty five of the methods that bother, I think,
Most of us, Americans would believe that in America you are entitled to a sense of privacy. When you go into a church, maybe privacy, a particular kind you and you God, children with you. No The state was infiltrating and secretly surveillance churches in a country where the separation of church and state is a deeply held ideal we reached out to two agents who were involved with the case in both declined to speak to us, people overseeing the investigation that I am ass, thought these methods were justified. They saw the movement as more political than religious. Yes, there are many. They thought it was under the guise of the church, meaning the sanctuary workers were using religion as a cover to push a political agenda. And undermine immigration, lots image
that some sanctuary volunteers were vocally critical of american policy in Central America, some expressive, port for the left wing movements developing there. In fact, there was but within the movement itself about whether their work should be motivated primarily by humanitarian concerns or political ones. That debate got to the point where we it decided to have a gathering and- and try to. Resolve it, but to it before that meeting was supposed to happen. The gun indicted. Sixteen of the sanctuary workers in Tucson, including Reverend five on January fourteen nineteen. Eighty five federal agent swept down arresting sixty, pre, guatemalan and salvadoran refugees across the United States, handing out indictments to sixteen leaders of the sanctuary movement that more Reverend five was sleeping when he heard someone banging on his front door. The hedge I got up and I went to the door. Or in order to border patrol agency, his immediate concern,
was for the refugees that we're staying at cell said presbyterian church right across the street from his house. The always thought that occurred to me was I got all these vulnerable people over in the church. I need to keep these guys occupied so I invited a man made coffee store old everywhere I could he read through the entire indictment. The officers had handed him trying to buy some time. My charges were pretty clear in and they were pretty typical of everyone. They were a number of counts of conspiracy to violate. Federal law harbouring illegal aliens transporting illegal aliens in aiding and abetting illegal aliens. Everyone had different counts under each of those categories. Eventually, the border patrol agents went on their way and Reverend
I found the other leaders of the sanctuary. Movement were left with a daunting situation. They faced the impending high profile trial in which they be facing off with the federal government, in the charges against them were serious if convicted they can spend years in prison. They got to work assembling a team of lawyers to defend them for break these. As I see it for sanctuary is very simple. Really. This is James Bosnian, one of the defence lawyers, the first religion and many churches, many We have as a distinct imperative that you, to assist people who are on the road and who are fleeing some form of violence, oppression, it's the teaching of Jesus the defence, thought there was an argument to be made that the sanctuary workers were just acting in accordance with their faith. Not only that
lawyers believed the religious rites of the sanctuary. Workers had been violated by the government agents, who'd infiltrated their churches and made secret recordings. Intimidation of people who are pursuing their Bible studies in a church. The second part of the defences argument had to do with asylum law. The law provides that one person shows up at the border and they are fleeing shirt, specific kinds of oppression or violence. They have a right to come in and one that is true and that can be established in an immigration court. That person is entitled to stay in the United States that asylum as a defence team research, the laws they started to believe that their clients hadn't really violated the law at all. They thought the U S government had I d research both
how the United States government was handling asylum applications from people from Central America, and I also researched international law. This is a beats butler, the third another lawyer for the sanctuary, volunteers, and I was appalled by what I did about how the United States government was systematically. It seemed denying asylum applications from Central America. This was all happening in the context of a major shift in: U S, refugee policy before nineteen? Eighty, the? U S, approve taken in refugees, had been expressly political. It gave preference refugees fleeing communist countries in countries in the Middle EAST, team eighty President Carter signed the refugee ACT into law. The law was supposed to come. A fairer system by it. Tina, more humanitarian, non ideological definition of a refugee. It used the criteria developed by the United Nations, which identify
the refugee, as anyone with a well founded fear of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, social group or political opinion. Even though these new criteria were in place when Reagan came into office, the lawyer, As for the sanctuary workers glee, the government was not following its own law. They thought I know, was turning away. Large numbers of El Salvador needs and guatemalans who should have qualified as political refugees Butler had been. Captain call of the sanctuary movement when he first learned about it, but his research, hedge. Changed his mind. I'll show I moved from a position of well. This is all fine and dandy, and this is a religious thing to do, but its legal. I move from that position to lawful to help these people in the United States government. That is violating the lot
the defendants and their supporters marched to the federal building in Phoenix or the first round of arraignments. This morning, the charges transporting aliens illegally harbouring them and conspiracies inside the court room the defendants pleaded not guilty. They were released without bail. Their trials were set for April. Second, the sanctuary people say those trials will be a major test religious freedoms in this country this afternoon, in Tucson, more arraignments in what sanction After months of preparation, the defence team was feeling confident they thought they had sympathetically it's a good amount of public support and compelling. Legal arguments here every five again our position was. Oh, we welcome the opportunity to make their case in court and we think we're gonna, win and slammed duck, but then very early on the defence team. Is a major setback. The lead prosecutor for the
The man was a lawyer name, Donald Reno, Junior and one of his first move, was to file a series of motions asked the federal judge was hearing the case to limit, the arguments the defence could make and then the federal judge, who was hearing our case rule that we couldn't say anything in our defence during our trial about five subjects. United states refuge you are international. Refugee law can do since in El Salvador conditions in Guatemala or religious faith so that wiped out Our entire legal position. What was left, nothing was left and the way my attorney explained it was well federal.
Judges in criminal prosecutions have enormous power to exclude evidence that they believe is not relevant to the charges letter in filed against the the judge had effectively reduce the case to its most basic level. Had this, three workers engaged in a conspiracy to smuggle in harbour. Undocumented people, yes or no. There was no discussion about context, history or motivations, one The defendant was a man named Jim Corbett allow, with reverent five he'd help to found the sanctuary Movement Corbett die in two thousand and one, but in an archival interview he described the situation there. Defence team found itself in he said it was as if a man was driving late at night, in freezing, whether his car breakdowns
Oh, he goes to a nearby house, a break there and then has discovered and brought to trial, and the judge rules out any evidence that wouldn't it They said it was forty below his car had gone bad. He had stopped, went to the my house in the area and entered it without understanding context, Jim thought there was no way the jury can understand why the sanctuary workers had decided to shelter central Americans turning to the necessity, the fence we're talking about something very similar with people fleeing torture and murder in a very different context, but to rule out the ability to refer to that necessity simply makes a mockery of the law. The judge named Earl Karel died in early February of twenty seventeen we requested and.
In our view with prosecutor, Donald Reno Junior, but he's still and active litigator for it's now known as immigration and customs enforcement, the agency declined our request to speak with them, but, who has featured in the news report from nineteen eighty five and he discuss I'm the sanctuary movement. As quote an alien. In smuggling, conspiracy, induced encouraged, smuggled transported and Barbara illegal aliens. The government says that's not much different from drug smuggling. Together over the next several months, the prosecution laid out its case against the sanctuary workers relying heavily on testimony from their undercover informants. Reno cared rise, the sanctuary movement as a smuggling operation pure and simple, the defence this team tried to undermine those accounts in cross examination and to sneak in
details about context and motivation when they could, but in most ways their hands were tied and when it came to for the defence to present their case. They declined to put anyone on the stand: structural able, but today the defence rusted without questioning or single witness. Your deliberations could begin next it is alleged that the sanctuary, the jury deliberately from northern forty eight hours spread over days on may first nineteen, eighty six, sixteen months after the indictments in more than six months since the start of the trial, the jury, held into the court room to read the verdict Of the eleven sanctuary workers who went to trial three were acquitted, of all charges. Eight were found guilty, including Reverend five, which hit Bates Butler the lawyer really hard after the jury. To me- and I was so disgusted with the system-
That I have worked for so long. I didn't want to be a part of it. Then we were so upset that our government and our court system had cast aside our clients, with their moral positions in the way felt like the government in the courts were bankrupt. The system was bankrupt, but the other defence lawyer James browsing hand had known there were significant hurdles they needed to overcome. The jury, is a very good, but they come in through the box with their own attitude in the attitude. Is people just can't come over? The bore you gonna do that you have to pay the price. Ruth admires of the iron ass thought. The verdict was fair. The people that worked on this, Sanctuary Movement did not present those people to immigration offices. They smuggled them into the. U s they get.
If them quote sanctuary in their churches, they did not follow the lock next came the sentencing by the judge. We really were worried that the judge was gonna put him in prison. My attorney told me, take a tooth brush in your hip pocket when you go to sends Incas, they want you bad. So I had made arrangements the congregation and with my family and everything expecting to go to prison hen and much store astonishment. He sentenced all of us who were convicted, Five years probation, the judge gave them relatively lenient sentences, considering they been convicted of. In some cases, felony So we were relieved at that point. I think I dont know what it is, but I thought that if he gave these nice people jail term would be awful
public opinion on that, and I think he had some some says that might be true. Many of the sanctuary. Workers, including Reverend Fife, went back to their communities and continued their work in the sanctuary movement churches continued sheltering people, volunteers, continued, helping people across the border, many of the sanctuary volume tears, had made clear in their closing arguments in the trial, but they wouldn't stop doing the work. The government may have sentence John five and seven other sanctuary activists, but it is hardly silence them nor stop them from across country crusade. In fact, and at that point that the government just back I mean they must have known that you are continuing to do exactly what they destroyed you for they backed off us here and to soar. They tried. One more trial in New Mexico
government charged a man and a woman who are part of the sanctuary movement for transporting undocumented immigrants, and the jury in that case found them not guilty, and at that point we knew that The movement had grown to the point where juries would no longer convict sanctuary workers not long after the criminal trial had ended. A group of churches and refugee rights organisations filed a class action lawsuit against the government. They alleged, among other things, that the government had engaged in discriminatory treatment of asylum claims made by Guatemalans and salvadorans Nineteen. Ninety the governments, the lawsuit they agree, it too Give everyone who was here without documents from those countries temporary protected status, work permit and they agreed to a whole series of reforms of the political asylum process
So we essentially began to wind down the sanctuary moment. But even though the churches were slowing their work, the whole idea of sanctuary was spreading college campuses, cities counties even whole states began to declare themselves sanctuaries and not just for refugees fleeing persecution, but for undocumented people. More broadly, this accelerated through the nineteen eighties and has continued up to today. What exactly sanctuary means varies from place to place anything you want as part of the problem, and each city is probably a little bit different once again lawyer, James Brosnan, usually the local authorities, police sheriff will not assist in the deportation of undocumented people in some places. Please allow to inquire about a person's immigration status or
to give that information to the federal government in other places is all residents are promised access to city services, regardless of their immigration status? These policies, can be said in law, or they can just happen in practice. President Donald Trump talked a lot about sanctuary cities during his campaign and he's pointed to me, murders committed by undocumented immigrants as evidence that sanctuary cities should not exist. He's threatened to pull federal funding from cities that identify sanctuaries and he's also problem. To accelerate deportations in response, Churches are once again sheltering people. I think a lot of congregations across the nation are struggling with what will it mean to be faithful to the mandates of our faith underneath this administration. This is our inherent she's. The current pastor of suicide. Material into saw the church where the sanctuary. Movement began in the nineteen eighties. She
you're congregation provided sanctuary to a couple of people who are threatened with deportation during the Obama administration there now having conversations about whether that work will expand the next few years, I mean I can't ignite a fact that my predecessor Johnny I was indicted, we're doing the work that I'm doing right now and that he was looking at ten years in prison try not to think about, but you can't ignore that, since twenty eleven Churches have had some protected status as sanctuaries in that immigration and customs enforcement under present Obama issued a memo, it said, some sensitive locations require special mission, or we have higher levels of approval and those sensitive locations are houses of worship, hospitals and schools, but the practice isn't codified into law in goodies. We change recently. There have been reports of immigration agents targeting on document
chap hospitals and schools, but that practice isn't codified into law in Greece. We change region. There have been reports of immigration agents targeting undocumented people in hospitals and schools. Churches might also be vulnerable. Gonna have to be worked out. Through a number of of Institute All decisions, as well as court decisions well into the future. What's a better. The result five years from now will see. No one knows ninety nine percent invisible was produced this week by Delaney Hall, which refuse, if every government image startled same Greenspan and me roman Mars,
Katy Mingle is our Senor under current coasted. Is the digital director in terms that is our office manager shown Rio compose regional music. For this episode with additional music by ok, a and melodious thing You two Miriam Davidson, the author of convictions of the heart for letting us use taper her interview with Jim Corbett. We are product of many one point: seven k: L W in San Francisco and produced on radio row in beautiful, downtown, Oakland, California, we often don't think of winter as a time of growth or creation. But if you think about it, it's the perfect time to create your own website, cooped up your thinking about being proactive and now square space can help you do it with Squares Bates. You can take your cool ideas, you ve creative content, your services, goods and you can turn them into a beautiful website in just a few clicks. Does it because there is do you?
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-14.