The Sanctuary movement was part of a broader antiwar movement against President Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy in Central America.
The year 1980 marked the beginning of public controversy over U.S. policy in Central America, when national refugee policy was being tested by the civil wars engulfing Central America. During the last months of the Carter administration, the U.S. Congress passed the
The fact that the Refugee Act was passed at the same time Central Americans were fleeing civil wars set the stage for a decades-long controversy that ultimately involved thousands of Americans. On one side of the controversy were
The religious congregations that became known as the
Eventually, more than one thousand Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish congregations supported the movement. A modern-day “underground railroad” was assembled with the aid of supporters in Mexico who helped Central American refugees reach the safety of Sanctuary sites in the United States. While the Reagan administration attempted to prosecute some of those involved in the movement, the accompanying publicity of trials in Texas and Arizona ultimately resulted in the indictment of Reagan’s war in Central America.
Bau, Ignatius. This Ground Is Holy: Church Sanctuary and Central American Refugees. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press, 1985. Golden, Renny, and Michael McConell. Sanctuary: The New Underground Railroad. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1986. Gonzales, Raymond J. “Secret Cable: The Roman Catholic Church as a Factor in Guatemalan Politics.” In A Lifetime of Dissent. New York: Xlibris, 2006.
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