Close the Camps Protests Scheduled Nationally

Here we go: Go to Closethecampsnow dot org to get the information.

This Tuesday, July 2, while members of Congress are home for the Fourth of July holiday, we will gather at their local offices in protest. Our demands:

  1. Close the Camps
  2. Not One Dollar for Family Detention
 and Deportation
  3. Bear Witness and Reunite Families

Will you join a local Close the Camps protest near you this Tuesday, July 2? Find an event and bring everyone you know.


Meanwhile, just published:

ICE Removals by Arresting Agency: FY2019 Q2 (01/01/2019 - 03/31/2019)

Statement attributable to Nathalie R. Asher (ICE Executive Associate Director) – The enforcement statistics from January-March 2019 illustrate that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is committed to arresting and removing unlawfully present aliens, with criminal histories, who threaten public safety and endanger immigrant communities. During this time period, more than 85 percent of aliens arrested by ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations officers, and more than 91 percent of aliens removed from the interior of the United States, had received criminal convictions or pending criminal charges.

The situation at the border continues to impact interior enforcement, with ERO personnel routinely detailed to support the processing and detention of arriving aliens. Administrative arrests of criminal aliens over the first two quarters of FY19 are down 14 percent versus the same time period in FY18. And, ICE removals stemming from U.S. Customs and Border Protection apprehensions have increased 10 percent in the first two quarters of FY19 over FY18. The agency is dedicated to using its authorities to enforce U.S. immigration laws, and ICE officers will continue to conduct enforcement humanely, respectfully and with professionalism.

ICE Removals by Arresting Agency: FY2019 Q2 (01/01/2019 – 03/31/2019)
Arresting Agency Convicted Criminal Pending Criminal Charges Other Immigration Violator Total
Total 34,960 6,024 22,556 63,540
CBP 19,281 2,512 20,708 42,501
ICE 15,679 3,512 1,848 21,039

Editor’s Note: The arrest and removal statistics provided in this announcement include preliminary data. Official numbers can vary slightly from preliminary data depending on when statistics are reported and collected. Enforcement data is not considered final and static until the end of the fiscal year.


How bad is it really?

For months, Democrats denied the illegal immigration crisis at the southern border, with Sen. Chuck Schumer, flanked by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, going so far as to accuse President Donald Trump of working to “manufacture a crisis, stoke fear and divert attention from the turmoil in his administration.”

The president, on the other hand, has made the situation on the southern border a top priority, in January declaring it both a “humanitarian and security crisis,” and stressing it ever since. Read the full summary here.

Now it is Human Smuggling VS. Immigration

Let’s start calling it for what it is and it is profitable to epic levels. We cannot overlook that the Syrian refugees were also smuggled, so there is no longer much separating the United States from Europe in this human crisis and yet Congress is not acting.

Don Bartletti shares some of his most memorable images ...

Senator Lindsey Graham at least introduced a bill to address the asylum issue but is there Democrat on the House side that has visited the border or introduced anything? silence….

Arrests at the southwest border increased for the fourth straight month in May as authorities continued to grapple with an unprecedented influx of migrants from Central America. 132,887 people were arrested between ports of entry last month, up from 99,304 migrants in April, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection released Wednesday.

100mph Crash Kills 5 illegal Immigrants Fleeing from ...

The cartels have shifted their business model to include smuggling and it has an annual value in the BILLIONS. (hat tip to Rand Corporation)

Unlawful migrants from Central America apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border each year often hire smugglers for assistance or pay others for rights of way at some point during their journey north. Policymakers face concerns that a substantial share of migrants’ expenditures on smuggling services could be flowing to transnational criminal organizations (TCOs), entities that represent a potential threat to homeland security.

In response to these concerns, the authors of this report conducted a scoping study to develop a preliminary estimate of TCOs’ revenues from smuggling migrants from the Northern Triangle region of Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador) to the United States and to characterize the TCOs’ structure, operations, and financing. They conducted interviews with subject-matter experts, a review of literature, and an analysis of governmental and nongovernmental data on migration and human smuggling and found that human smuggling involves many different types of actors and that most TCOs’ activities and revenues cannot be separated credibly from those of ad hoc groups, independent operators, and others who engage in human smuggling. They developed a preliminary estimate of revenues from human smuggling flowing to all types of smugglers, not just TCOs — ranging from about $200 million to $2.3 billion in 2017 — with uncertainty stemming largely from analytical challenges related to data limitations and time constraints. Separately, they also produced a preliminary estimate of the taxes, or pisos, that migrants pay to drug-trafficking TCOs to pass through their territories, ranging from about $30 million to $180 million.

Key Findings

Characteristics of actors that engage in human smuggling

  • Actors that engage in human smuggling range from independent operators, to ad hoc groups, to loose networks, to more-formally structured networks, such as TCOs.
  • Many of these actors are subcontractors that offer their services to different networks or groups or other independent operators at the same time.
  • Many of the actors engaged in human smuggling do not appear to meet the statutory definition of a TCO.

Relationship between human smuggling and drug trafficking

  • There is little evidence that drug-trafficking TCOs engage directly in human smuggling, but they maintain control of primary smuggling corridors into the United States and charge migrants a “tax,” known as a piso, to pass through their territories.
  • Drug-trafficking TCOs might also coordinate unlawful migrants’ border crossings to divert attention from other illicit activities and recruit or coerce migrants to carry drugs.

Preliminary findings on revenue estimation

  • Estimating revenues from human smuggling requires data on (1) the number of unlawful migrants, (2) the percentage hiring smugglers, and (3) typical payments. A lack of reliable information on each point contributes to uncertainty in revenue estimates.
  • The authors’ preliminary estimate of revenues to all types of smugglers from smuggling migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, combined, ranged from a total of about $200 million to a total of about $2.3 billion in 2017.
  • The authors’ preliminary estimate of taxes paid to drug-trafficking TCOs by migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador who passed through those TCOs’ territories ranged from $30 million to $180 million in 2017.


  • Target vulnerabilities of human smugglers. For example, consider expanding existing efforts to investigate payments made to human smugglers, especially in the United States, and working more closely with formal and informal banking services to identify suspicious payments. Also, consider expanding current efforts to work with foreign law enforcement partners to disrupt smuggling operations.
  • Use information about the value of the smuggling market to inform decisions about efforts to allocate resources to market disruption.
  • Consider standardizing and expanding the range of questions that border officials ask migrants during interviews to seek more consistent and detailed information from migrants about different types of smugglers, routes, and payments.
  • Use shared portal for data entry that can screen for errors and use a randomized survey process to reduce the administrative burden of data collection on frontline personnel and increase the likelihood of successful data entry.

$37 Million for Migrant Detention Facilities is NOT Enough

Click this link to see the video of the new detention facilities.

Now after watching that video we see how the Border Patrol cant do their real job and the need for the military supplementing surveillance and security.

The Trump administration wants to open two new tent facilities to temporarily detain up to 1,000 parents and children near the southern border, as advocates sharply criticize the conditions inside the tents already used to hold migrants.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a notice to potential contractors that it wants to house 500 people in each camp in El Paso, Texas, and in the South Texas city of Donna, which has a border crossing with Mexico.

Each facility would consist of one large tent that could be divided into sections by gender and between families and children traveling alone, according to the notice. Detainees would sleep on mats. There would also be laundry facilities, showers, and an “additional fenced-in area” for “outside exercise/recreation.”

The notice says the facilities could open in the next two weeks and operate through year end, with a cost that could reach $37 million.

But the agency has said its resources are strained by the sharp rise in the numbers of parents and children crossing the border and requesting asylum. It made 53,000 apprehensions in March of parents and children traveling together, most of whom say they are fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. Many ultimately request asylum under U.S. and international law.

FILE - Immigrant children are led by staff in single file between tents at a detention facility next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, June 18, 2018. Immigrant children are led by staff in single file between tents at a detention facility next to the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, June 18, 2018.

In a statement Tuesday, CBP said it urgently needed additional space for detention and processing.

“CBP is committed to finding solutions that address the current border security and humanitarian crisis at the southwest border in a way that safeguards those in our custody in a humane and dignified manner,” the statement said.

The Border Patrol has started directly releasing parents and children instead of referring them to immigration authorities for potential long-term detention, but families still sometimes wait several days to be processed by the agency and released.

Land near the bridge in Donna was used last year as a camp by active-duty soldiers when they were ordered to South Texas’ Rio Grande Valley.

The Border Patrol also established a tent facility at Donna to hold migrants in December 2016, in the last weeks of the administration of former President Barack Obama, in response to a previous surge of migrants from Central America.

Sister Norma Pimentel, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, said she had been allowed to visit the tent facility in 2016. She said that facility had been “open and clean,” but noted she visited before it began detaining people.

“Detention is never a good idea for any family,” Pimentel said. “I believe families are victims of a lot of abuse, and we just add to that abuse by the way we respond to handle and process them.”

Not All of Central America is Desperate, but Is

Belize and Costa Rica are thriving. Tourism for Belize is the top economic earner, then comes sugar and citrus production. The country enjoys an estimated annual growth of 2.5%. Costa Rica also has a strong economy with almost 4% annual growth and both countries have foreign investors.

So when it comes to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, they are among the poorest countries in the region. Seems those countries maintain an 85% poverty rate. The SOUTHCOM  Commander, Navy Admiral Craig Faller was in the region in January for a week visit to the three countries discussing security cooperation with emphasis on training, counter-drug missions and humanitarian operations. The United States maintains flight operations that track, detect and monitor all vehicles and crafts for illicit drug trafficking.

USAID has these cockamamie work plans in the region that promotes prosperity. That includes securing borders, increasing economic and business opportunities and stopping corruption. How is that working out? Just skim this document for context.

USAID gives $181 million to Honduras annually. Guatemala receives $257 million while El Salvador accepts $118 million. But hold on that is not all. We also have this other U. S. organization called Millennium Challenge. This is yet another cockamamie operation designed to partner with countries worldwide to promote growth and lift people out of poverty while investing in future generations through education.

Under the Hillary Clinton and John Kerry State Departments, Millennium Challenge has these workshops. Read more here.

Meanwhile, people are still bailing out of Central America in these caravans and the plight of Central America is now a plight for the United States coming through our Southern border.

So, check out how the caravans are using social media and encrypted communications to mobilize.


How does a Central American migrant caravan form?

In this Oct. 28, 2018 file photo, migrants charge their cell phones as a caravan of Central Americans trying to reach the U.S. border halts for a rest day in San Pedro Tapanatepec, Oaxaca state, Mexico. Hundreds of Central Americans are now getting as many details as possible before leaving north towards the U.S. border. Increasingly they’re organized over Facebook and WhatsApp as they try to join together in large groups they hope will make the trip safer, and without having to hide themselves from authorities. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — “When does the next caravan leave?” ″Can I go? I’m from Guatemala.” ″What papers do I need for my kids?”

The questions pile up on the phones of hundreds of Central Americans, all with the same goal: Get as many details as possible before leaving their country.

Costly phone calls with relatives and friends in the United States to work out the route or find the best smuggler are a thing of the past for many Central Americans. Now would-be migrants create chat groups and organize using social media to leave in caravans.

“The social networks have had an empowering role in this new way of migrating,” said Abbdel Camargo, an anthropologist at the College of the Southern Border in Mexico. “They organize themselves en masse in their home countries, formed by entire families, and the networks serve them as a mechanism for safety and communication throughout the journey.”

The roots of the migrant caravan phenomenon began years ago when activists organized processions – often with a religious theme – during Holy Week to dramatize the hardships and needs of migrants. A minority of those involved wound up traveling all the way to the U.S. border.

That changed last year: On Oct. 13, hundreds of people walked out of Honduras and as the days passed and they crossed Guatemala, the group grew to more than 7,000 migrants. U.S. President Donald Trump seized on the new phenomenon to ramp up his anti-immigrant policies.

Since then, and parallel to the usual clandestine migrant flow north, smaller caravans have continued to leave the so-called Northern Triangle of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

And increasingly they’re organized over Facebook and WhatsApp as they try to join together in large groups they hope will make the trip safer, and without having to hide from authorities.

The most recent caravan left the bus station in San Pedro Sula in northern Honduras on April 10, and journalists from The Associated Press have been following various online migrant chats since late March.

“Anyone know anything about the caravan leaving on the 10th? They say the mother of all caravans is going,” one message said.

In this Feb. 8, 2019 file photo, 17-year-old Honduran migrant Josue Mejia Lucero, his girlfriend Milagro de Jesus Henriquez Ayala, 15, and Josue’s 3-year-old nephew Jefferson, look at cell phones as they lie in bed at the Agape World Mission shelter in Tijuana, Mexico. Hundreds of Central Americans are now getting as many details as possible before leaving north towards the U.S. border. (AP Photo/Emilio Espejel, File)

Élmer Alberto Cardona, a 27-year-old shopkeeper from Honduras, saw an announcement on Facebook just days after being deported from the U.S. to San Pedro Sula and said he didn’t think twice: He collected his three children, ages 3, 6 and 9, and headed north again on April 10.

He and his wife had left with the first caravan in October and made it to Tijuana, across the border from California. They obtained Mexican humanitarian visas that allowed them to temporarily live and work locally, but decided to cross the border and turn themselves over to U.S. border agents to request asylum.

It didn’t go well and they were detained in facilities in different states. He was deported first and his wife was still locked up when he started the journey again, this time with his children.

“I think it will go better this time; it looks like a lot of people are getting together,” he said by phone near the Honduras-Guatemala border.

It’s not clear who is launching the chats. The AP called the number of the person who created one of the WhatsApp chats. The woman who answered said her husband had lived in the U.S. for eight years, was deported and now wanted to return. After a few minutes, a male voice was heard and then she suddenly hung up and no one answered again.

In that group, members give bits of advice: Everyone should bring their passports and those thinking of traveling with children or coming from far away should arrive a day before the caravan leaves. “To take a child you just need a passport and permission if the mother isn’t going.” ″Take a photo with the mother and the baby.”

Some chats appear to be created for a set departure date. Others remain active from earlier caravans or with an eye toward future ones. They usually have various administrators who give advice from points on the route. WhatsApp group members’ phone numbers are from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and even the United States. Friends and relatives share invitations.

People aren’t afraid to ask delicate questions in the chats: “Group, in Mexico can you find someone to take you to the other side?” And suspicions come out: “Don’t trust.” ″Remember that in Mexico there are a lot of kidnappings.” ”’There are no coordinators, that’s what people have to say so there aren’t problems.”

The messages also explore ways to seek protection against the robberies, extortion, kidnappings that have long plagued those crossing Mexico. Some express fear that the gangs have tried to infiltrate: “This dude works with the Zetas, a friend of mine from Olancho told me he knows him and that he’s still with them,” said someone who shared a photo of the alleged criminal.

Attention to the recent caravans soared in late March, when Mexican Interior Secretary, Olga Sánchez Cordero met with then-Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and without giving details, said that “the mother of all caravans” was forming with more than 20,000 people.

Shortly thereafter, Trump threatened again to close the border with Mexico and suspend aid to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

While some in the group that left San Pedro Sula referred to it as “the mother of all caravans,” it had fewer than 3,000 people when it arrived at the Mexican border.

The caravans often grow when they reach Mexico because other migrants who are already waiting in the border area tend to join. As of mid-April, there were more than 8,000 migrants, including those who left San Pedro Sula on April 10, at various places in the southern state of Chiapas, according to Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission.

For those hoping to join, the chats provide information in real time about where to meet up — “Caravan where are you going?” ″We’re waiting for you here” — and also about roadblocks, places in Mexico where visas are being processed or sites where there’s been a problem.

Members also upload photos and videos to let their families know where they are and how they’re doing.

And though the April 10 caravan is still in southern Mexico, people in some groups are about forming others: “Another is leaving April 30, Salvadoran friends.”


Genesis of U.S. Immigration Crisis

Well, we can for sure say that the Democrats side with the Communists, Marxists and Revolutionaries.

Hat tip to Glenn Beck and my buddy Ami Horowitz for the great foot work and investigations to determine where this illegal insurgency is really coming from. Beck pulled out his chalkboard again and his presentation is a good one.

So, while these democrats are not students of history while others have very short memories, there is a longer history to all of this immigration crisis. You see, a few years ago, I read a book titled From the Shadows, written by former CIA Director Robert Gates. Gates was also the Secretary of Defense as part of his long government service resume. He wrote that book in 1996. A particular page stayed in my memory and I did a search in my Book Nook today to find it.

Okay is there more? Yes.There are so many moving parts to the legacy immigration crisis today. Who is to blame? Too many it seems. But for context read on, history does repeat itself.

Going back to an article/summary from 2006, how did we get to this cockamamie asylum policy? It goes to a crisis that was born in 1980.

Citation: The year 1980 marked the opening of a decade of public controversy over U.S. refugee policy unprecedented since World War II. Large-scale migration to the United States from Central America began, as hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Nicaraguans fled north from civil war, repression, and economic devastation. That same year, in the last months of the Carter administration, the U.S. Congress passed the Refugee Act, a humanitarian law intended to expand eligibility for political asylum in the United States.

The Refugee Act brought U.S. law into line with international human rights standards, specifically the 1951 UN Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. The United States had ratified the Protocol in 1968, thus becoming bound by the Convention’s provisions. While the previous law recognized only refugees from Communism, the Refugee Act was modeled on the convention’s non-ideological standard of a “well-founded fear of persecution.”

The coincidence of the Central American exodus with the passage of the Refugee Act set the stage for a decade-long controversy that ultimately involved thousands of Americans. The protagonists in the controversy included, on one side, immigrants’ rights lawyers, liberal members of Congress, religious activists, and the refugees themselves. On the other side were President Reagan and his administration, the State Department, the Department of Justice (including the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)), and conservative members of Congress. The first group invoked international human rights and humanitarian and religious principles, while the Reagan administration’s arguments centered on national security and the global fight against Communism.

The public debate took place in a number of arenas and with several sets of participants. The federal courts were the venue for class-action cases contesting systemic INS violations of refugee rights, as well as for the criminal prosecution of religious humanitarians.

Unprecedented numbers of Americans became involved through their churches and synagogues, which proclaimed themselves “sanctuaries,” as well as in bar association efforts to provide pro bono representation to Salvadorans and Guatemalans. Throughout the decade, in hundreds of individual immigration hearings, lawyers for asylum applicants and INS lawyers waged a low-intensity struggle over the nature of the conflict in Central America and the rights of individual Central Americans to asylum status.

In Congress, members debated the war and laws aimed at helping Central Americans rejected as refugees. The refugees themselves became a voice in the U.S. public debate. They formed their own community assistance groups and advocacy centers, which worked with lawyers, religious groups, and the movement against United States involvement in Central America.

Cold War by Proxy and Human Rights in Central America

In El Salvador and Guatemala, civil war had been years in the making, as oligarchies supported by corrupt military leaders repressed large sectors of the rural population. In Nicaragua, the socialist revolutionary Frente Sandinista had ousted the brutal right-wing dictator Anastasio Somoza in 1979. The civil war in El Salvador increased in intensity in early 1980. Government-supported assassins gunned down Archbishop Oscar Romero at the altar shortly after he had publicly ordered Salvadoran soldiers to stop killing civilians. In December 1980, four U.S. churchwomen were assassinated in El Salvador, an act of brutality that brought the violence “home” to the U.S. public.

The administration of President Ronald Reagan, who came to power in January 1981, saw these civil wars as theaters in the Cold War. In both El Salvador and Guatemala, the United States intervened on the side of those governments, which were fighting Marxist-led popular movements. In Nicaragua, however, the United States supported the contra rebels against the socialist Sandinista government.

During much of the early 1980s, international human rights organizations (such as Amnesty International and Americas Watch — later part of Human Rights Watch) regularly reported high levels of repression in El Salvador and Guatemala, with the vast majority of human rights violations committed by military and government-supported paramilitary forces.

In El Salvador, the military and death squads were responsible for thousands of disappearances and murders of union leaders, community leaders, and suspected guerilla sympathizers, including priests and nuns. In Guatemala, the army’s counter-insurgency campaign focused on indigenous communities, resulting in thousands of disappearances, murders, and forced displacements.

The Intersection of Foreign Policy and Asylum Policy

It is estimated that between 1981 and 1990, almost one million Salvadorans and Guatemalans fled repression at home and made the dangerous journey across Mexico, entering the United States clandestinely. Thousands traveled undetected to major cities such as Washington, DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, New York, and Chicago. However, thousands were also detained at or near the Mexico-U.S. border.

The Reagan administration regarded policy toward Central American migrants as part of its overall strategy in the region. Congress had imposed a ban on foreign assistance to governments that committed gross violations of human rights, thus compelling the administration to deny Salvadoran and Guatemalan government complicity in atrocities. Immigration law allowed the attorney general and INS officials wide discretion regarding bond, work authorization, and conditions of detention for asylum seekers, while immigration judges received individual “opinion letters” from the State Department regarding each asylum application. Thus the administration’s foreign policy strongly influenced asylum decisions for Central Americans.

Characterizing the Salvadorans and Guatemalans as “economic migrants,” the Reagan administration denied that the Salvadoran and Guatemalan governments had violated human rights. As a result, approval rates for Salvadoran and Guatemalan asylum cases were under three percent in 1984. In the same year, the approval rate for Iranians was 60 percent, 40 percent for Afghans fleeing the Soviet invasion, and 32 percent for Poles.

The Justice Department and INS actively discouraged Salvadorans and Guatemalans from applying for political asylum. Salvadorans and Guatemalans arrested near the Mexico-U.S. border were herded into crowded detention centers and pressured to agree to “voluntarily return” to their countries of origin. Thousands were deported without ever having the opportunity to receive legal advice or be informed of the possibility of applying for refugee status. Considering the widely reported human rights violations in El Salvador and Guatemala, the treatment of these migrants constituted a violation of U.S. obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention.

As word of the conditions in Central America and the plight of the refugees began to come to public attention in the early 1980s, three sectors began to work in opposition to the de facto “no asylum” policy: the religious sector, attorneys, and the refugees themselves.

Although a number of Congressmen and women were influenced by the position of religious organizations, the administration thwarted their efforts. In 1983, 89 members of Congress requested that the attorney general and Department of State grant “Extended Voluntary Departure” to Salvadorans who had fled the war. The administration denied their request, stating such a grant would only serve as a “magnet” for more unauthorized Salvadorans in addition to the hundreds of thousands already present. In the late 1980s, the House of Representatives passed several bills to suspend the deportation of Salvadorans, but none passed the Senate.

The Sanctuary Movement

The network of religious congregations that became known as the Sanctuary Movement started with a Presbyterian church and a Quaker meeting in Tucson, Arizona. These two congregations began legal and humanitarian assistance to Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees in 1980.

When, after two years, none of the refugees they assisted had been granted political asylum, Rev. John Fife of Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson announced — on the anniversary of the assassination of Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero — that his church would openly defy INS and become a “sanctuary” for Central Americans. The Arizona congregations were soon joined by networks of religious congregations and activists in Northern California, South Texas, and Chicago.

At the Sanctuary Movement’s height in the mid 1980s, over 150 congregations openly defied the government, publicly sponsoring and supporting undocumented Salvadoran or Guatemalan refugee families. Another 1,000 local Christian and Jewish congregations, several major Protestant denominations, the Conservative and Reform Jewish associations, and several Catholic orders all endorsed the concept and practice of sanctuary. Sanctuary workers coordinated with activists in Mexico to smuggle Salvadorans and Guatemalans over the border and across the country. Assistance provided to refugees included bail and legal representation, as well as food, medical care, and employment.

The defense of the Salvadorans and Guatemalans marked a new use of international human rights norms by U.S. activists. Citing the Nuremberg principles of personal accountability developed in the post-World War II Nazi tribunals, religious activists claimed a legal precedent to justify their violation of U.S. laws against alien smuggling. Other activists claimed that their actions were justified by the religious and moral principles of the 19th-century U.S. abolitionist movement, referring to their activities as a new “Underground Railroad.” Many U.S. religious leaders involved in the Sanctuary Movement had prior experience in the 1960s civil disobedience campaigns against racial segregation in the American South.

The Department of Justice responded by initiating criminal prosecutions against two activists in Texas in 1984, followed by a 71-count criminal conspiracy indictment against 16 U.S. and Mexican religious activists announced in Arizona in January 1985. The Texas trials resulted in split verdicts, one conviction and one acquittal.

The Arizona trial became a major focus of organizing and publicity for the Sanctuary Movement, attracting a stellar team of volunteer criminal defense attorneys. Although the Department of Justice maintained the case was an ordinary alien-smuggling prosecution, the general counsel of INS attended sessions of the lengthy trial.

Despite the judge’s order barring the defense from presenting evidence of conditions in El Salvador or Guatemala, the Sanctuary Movement managed to turn the publicity surrounding the trial into an indictment of the Reagan administration’s war in Central America and its treatment of the refugees. All the Arizona defendants were convicted, but none were sentenced to jail time. After the Arizona trials, the movement continued to attract more congregations.

The Department of Justice did not bring any more criminal indictments of sanctuary activists after the Texas and Arizona cases.

The Lawyers

Along the U.S.-Mexico border, from the Rio Grande Valley to San Diego, local lawyers and religious activists set up new legal services projects to help detained refugees. In Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Washington, DC, Chicago, and other cities, existing nonprofit legal services projects and lawyers in private practice started representing individual refugees. Pro bono panels put together by local and national bar groups — including the National Lawyers Guild Immigration Project, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, and the American Bar Association — supplemented their work.

Through coordinated strategies in individual cases, these lawyers began to address detention conditions as well as develop the new case law of the Refugee Act. In California and Texas, civil rights lawyers filed class-action cases to establish basic due process rights. While some of the cases (regarding work authorization, translation assistance, and transfer of detainees between facilities) were not successful, other decisions established national standards for the treatment of detained Salvadoran and Guatemalan asylum seekers.

The refugees and their lawyers faced enormous challenges in asylum hearings, as the required opinion letters from the Department of State, which greatly influenced immigration judges, uniformly denied the existence of human rights violations in El Salvador and Guatemala. However, in some cases, attorneys won important victories before the Board of Immigration Appeals and in the federal circuit courts that established precedents helpful to all asylum applicants. Other efforts, such as an attempt to establish that all Salvadoran civilian young men were a social group persecuted by the government, were less successful.

Finally, a group of lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild, the American Civil Liberties Union, and other organizations brought a major, national class-action case on behalf of religious organizations, legal services projects, and Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees, claiming that the administration’s wholesale denial of political asylum claims and prosecutions of those who assisted refugees violated their constitutional, statutory, and internationally recognized human rights.

In the case, known as American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh, the federal courts had dismissed religious organizations’ claims. However, in 1991 the U.S. District Court in San Francisco approved a settlement that allowed the reopening of denied political asylum claims and late applications by refugees who had been afraid to apply. The decision also granted class members work authorization and protection from deportation.

The settlement agreement between the plaintiffs and the government (by that time the Bush administration) included language stating that government decisions on political asylum cases would not be influenced by foreign policy considerations.

The Refugees

In many cities, Salvadoran and Guatemalan refugees formed mutual assistance organizations. Projects such as Casa Guatemala, Casa El Salvador, Comite El Salvador, and others gave the community the ability to get legal advice and information about conditions back home as well as to learn about local health care and food assistance. These groups also worked with local lawyers’ organizations and religious and antiwar activists, who assisted in decisions regarding class-action litigation and supported individual asylum applicants.

Over 20 years later, a number of these immigrant-led projects, including Centro Presente in Boston, Centro Romero in Chicago, and El Rescate in Los Angeles, still exist as full-service, nonprofit legal and community services centers. Many of the leaders of these efforts remain active in the immigrants’ rights movement, as well as in other social justice projects in the United States, El Salvador, and Guatemala.


In 1990, after its earlier frustrations to address the Central American asylum seekers, Congress finally passed legislation allowing the president to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to certain groups in need of a temporary safe haven. The first TPS legislation contained one provision (never codified as part of the Immigration and Nationality Act) explicitly designating Salvadorans for TPS.

Through the early 1990s, Salvadoran and Guatemalans who had arrived in the 1980s were able to stay in the country under a series of discretionary measures and under the terms of the 1991 settlement in the American Baptist Churches litigation. It was not until the late 1990s that their status was finally settled in a legislative agreement with the supporters of the anti-Sandinista Nicaraguans. The passage of the 1997 Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act finally allowed Salvadorans and Guatemalans protected under the American Baptist Churches settlement to apply for permanent residence.


What spurred the activism of the Sanctuary Movement and Central American refugees and their lawyers was the manner in which the Reagan administration linked the fate of individual asylum seekers to its foreign policy interests. Today, the use of immigration enforcement as a “magic bullet” for national security concerns requires close examination by the U.S. public.

Immigrant communities, members of Congress, policy analysts, religious leaders, and legal experts must determine whether the human rights of individual immigrants and asylum seekers are being trampled in a rush to create a public perception of effective security.

The development of a stronger anti-immigrant grassroots movement in certain areas of the country presents new challenges. Similarly, restrictions on access to the federal courts for review of certain immigration decisions create new obstacles for advocates to overcome. However, at the same time, immigrant-led organizations and immigrants’ rights coalitions have become more sophisticated in their lobbying and public education efforts.

The proimmigrant religious sector (particularly the Catholic Church) is vocal once again, as humanitarian assistance to the undocumented may be criminalized in proposed legislation. Whether the current decade will end with even limited victories for the human rights of immigrants is as yet unknown.