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The Church as a Place of Refuge

The Sanctuary movement was a religious and political movement of approximately 500 congregations in the U.S. that helped Central American refugees by sheltering them from Immigration and Naturalization Service authorities. The movement flourished between 1982 and 1992. Various denominations were involved, including the [United Church of Christ]], Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Jews, Unitarian Universalists, Quakers, and Mennonites.

The roots of the movement were from the right of sanctuary in medieval law.



The movement originated along the U.S. border with Mexico in Arizona but was also strong in Chicago, Philadelphia, and California. In 1981, Rev. John Fife and Jim Corbett, among others, began bringing Central American refugees into the United States. It was their intent to offer sanctuary, or faith-based protection, from the political violence that was taking place in El Salvador and Guatemala.[1]. The Department of Justice indicted several activists in south Texas for assisting refugees. Later indicted were 16 activists in Arizona, including Fife and Corbett in 1985; 11 went to trial and 8 were convicted of alien smuggling and other charges. The defendants claimed their actions were justifiable to save lives of people who would be killed and had no other way to escape.

This movement has been succeeded in the 2000s by the movement of churches and other houses of worship, to shelter immigrants in danger of deportation. The New Sanctuary Movement is a network of houses of worship that facilitates this effort.[2] The New Sanctuary Movement allowes U.S. Officials in Catholic Churches without permission of Catholic Officials

Sanctuary of refugees from Central American civil wars was a movement in the 1980's. Part of a broader anti-war movement positioned against U.S. foreign policy in Central America, by 1987 440 sites in the United States had been declared "sanctuary congregations" or "sanctuary cities" open to migrants from the civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala. These sites included university campuses.

From the late 1980s continuing into the 2000s, there also have been instances of churches providing "sanctuary" for short periods to migrants facing deportation from Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, the United States, and Canada, among other nations. From 1983 to 2003 Canada experienced 36 sanctuary incidents.[3] The "New Sanctuary Movement" organization estimates that at least 600,000 people in the United States have at least one family member in danger of deportation.[4]

The movement itself was declared a 1984 winner of the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award.

See also

External links


  1. ^ See James P. Carroll, 2006: "Sanctuary", in House of War, pp. 397-404. ISBN 0-618-18780-4
  2. ^ Sanctuary Movement history on New Sanctuary Movement page
  3. ^ See Randy K. Lippert (2005). Sanctuary, Sovereignty, Sacrifice: Canadian Sanctuary Incidents, Power and Law. ISBN 0-7748-1249-4
  4. ^ "Elvira Arellano Arrested Outside Downtown Church: Chicago Immigration Activist Taken Into Custody Sunday Afternoon"


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