Sanctuary Movement Starts Cross-Country Caravan to Relocate Central Americans
PHOENIX, Ariz. (AP) _ A caravan of 65 cars began a cross-country journey to relocate Central American refugees and to show that the sanctuary movement won’t be stopped by smuggling charges brought against its members, a spokesman said.
″We want to help these refugees find sanctuary,″ said Don Haddon, spokesman for the Sanctuary Movement Committee in Phoenix. ″But we also want them (the government) to know that we aren’t intimidated.″
Prior to leaving Sunday, members of the movement held a prayer service at St. Catherine Church in which clergy of several religions asked for ″a commitment of faith″ and assistance for the Central Americans.
Sister Darlene Nicgorski, one of 12 defendants in a federal alien-smuggling case scheduled to go to trial in September, said the stories told by the refugees ″sent goosebumps up my body.″
″It’s a strange message we’re called to hear,″ she said. ″It’s another reality.″
The sanctuary movement contends that illegal aliens from Central America are refugees who are entitled to political asylum. The government contends they are economic refugees, and those who assist them in entering the country illegally are also committing crimes.
The caravan was to arrive today in New Mexico. About a dozen movement members planned to make the trip through 10 states, with a July 21 arrival planned at Northampton, Mass., Haddon said.
The caravan, which left with 65 cars, was to take a Salvadoran to St. Louis, two Guatemalan brothers to Chicago and a Guatemalan family of five to Northampton, he said.
Sanctuary workers often use an ″underground railroad″ to relocate refugees, but chose a public approach as a way of asking that the United States be declared a sanctuary, said the Rev. Jim Oines of Alzona Lutheran Church.
This is the fourth public caravan organized since March 1984.
INS Regional Director Ruth Ann Myers said last month that the Phoenix office would not make arrests of those in the caravan because the subsequent publicity is ″exactly what they want.″