Page 32


ESSAY By [contributing] so, we hope in some small way to remember Pastor Andre Trocme of La Chambon, France, who shielded and saved hundreds of Jewish children, strangers to his village, from the Vichy authorities and the occupying Germans in the early 1940s. . . . From a March 1984 letter to the author \(at the time, director of Casa TO REMEMBER, to put together the jagged, incomplete pieces of an obscured reality and have it mean something, has today become a subversive activity in America. By remembering, we rekindle ideals we once thought were lost. We are challenged by the examples of people who confronted inhumanity with their compassionate action. By acknowledging the choices made by men and women nearly half a century ago, we gain a clearer perspective of the choices that people active in the sanctuary movement are making today. In Tucson, Arizona, men and women, found guilty by a jury on 18 counts of transporting illegal immigrants, conspiracy, and related charges, face sentencing July 1. Their six-month trial generated heated arguments in the courtroom and wide debate throughout the country. State Department, Border Patrol, and Immigration and Naturalization Service officials have intentionally blurred the distinction between economic migrants and refugees, blanketing all undocumented persons with the “illegal alien” label and charging that the sanctuary movement in fact exploits refugees and “hide[s] them away from the benefits of our laws and use[s] their suffering in a domestic political debate” \(As Elliott Abrams, Assistant Secretary for misdirected as these charges may be, they have been remarkably successful in intimidating people in general and church bodies in particular. In some circles, the word “sanctuary” has become a loaded term, the way “justice” has in El Salvador: It’s simply not mentioned because of its anti establishment connotation. What is it about the sanctuary movement that causes it to be perceived by the government as such a threat? For one thing, it frustrates the attempts by the Executive Branch for “consensus” on our foreign policy in Central America. In a speech in April of this year, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Inter-American Affairs James Michel noted, “There are, of course, still some who deny that positive. worthwhile change is occurring in El Salvador, Honduras, or Guatemala or who assert that the United States is supporting repressive oligarchies in those countries and is so obsessed with anticommunism that it focuses only on military solutions.” Michel can only be accused of understatement here. And yet he touches on a primary feature of the debate about sanctuary: Who shall define Central American reality? When refugees from the countries Michel mentions come to us bearing scars and sharing their histories they open a window through which we are able to view the often obscured realities of their homelands. When what they tell us is corraborated by non-governmental human rights groups, comites of relatives of the disappeared, international human rights organizations, and, at times, even our own embassy staffs, we become duly skeptical of the official line that “Central America engages our strategic The Sanctuary Challenge By Jack Elder Arizona Update THE FEDERAL government used extraordinary measures to investigate and indict sanc tuary workers in Arizona and then to keep the defense from presenting salient evidence during the trial. Federal district Judge Earl Carroll, in denying the defense the opportunity to question a Salvadoran witness about the persecution that led to his flight, from El Salvador, said, “For the purpose of this case, we do not need to hear about the experiences of a witness or any members of his family in a foreign country.” The jury never heard the testimony of Francisco Nieto, a Salvadoran aided by the sanctuary movement. But in an offer of proof \(to the court counsel for Sr. Darlene Nicgorski, told the court how the Salvadoran police had come to the Nieto’s house one day and taken them all away. Both Mr. and Mrs. Nieto were beaten and tortured and kept in separate prisons. Originally their three children, one of them nursing at the time, were also taken from them. After Mrs. Nieto was released, the children were returned to her, only to have their three year old taken again. Altman told an apparently bored Judge Carroll how the police took the three year old to the jail where his father was being detained and held him under water as Francisco looked on helplessly. The police threatened to drown the child unless Francisco signed a paper saying that he was a “subversive.” One of the rare instances during the trial when the jury was able to peek briefly through the window onto Central America took place inadvertently. Prosecutor Donald Reno pressed witness Joel Morelos of Guatemala for his recollection of his conversation with defendant Phil Willis-Conger and had him read a transcript of the exchange to see if it would refresh his memory about certain parts of it. Much to Reno’s chagrin, Morelos told the jury that he probably did not hear the parts in question because, he said, “in reality, I have lost the hearing in one of my ears because I was tortured in Guatemala.” Nancy Postero, defense counsel for Mary K. Espinoza, provided an insight into the investigation the government undertook to bring about the indictments. She demonstrated to the jury that government informant Jestis Cruz had actually set Mrs. Espinoza up for one of the charges in the indictment by leaving refugees at her office at the Sacred Heart Church in Nogales, Arizona. Mrs. Espinoza was later charged for harboring the refugees during that period of time. 0 12 JUNE 27, 1986