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Recalling our Role in the Sanctuary Movement

 Sister Kate Reid, ASC

By Sister Kate Reid, ASC

In the 1980s, civil wars in Central America led to an influx of migrants fleeing violence and political repression to safety in the U.S.

And many Americans, for political and religious reasons, provided safe haven for those refugees even as the nation’s federal immigration policies made obtaining asylum difficult. The repression in Central America often came from regimes supported by the U.S. government.

Those Americans listened to migrants’ stories, accompanied them in their daily lives, arranged for housing and medical care, and helped them move on to safety.

The effort came to be known as the Sanctuary Movement. We Adorers in the former Ruma Province were a part of it, starting with a vote this month 36 years ago.

We considered and prayed about the decision, and voted in September 1985 to declare ourselves as sanctuary for Guatemalan and Salvadoran refugees. 

Providing sanctuary was “so clearly an expression of our beliefs and values,” according to our corporate stand.

The detailed story of what we did in the Sanctuary Movement is told in photos, clippings, and documents from the era stored in the Ruma Archives.

We picked up our first Guatemalan family on Christmas 1985 and made a public declaration of Sanctuary on Jan. 19, 1986. From 1986 to 1992, we welcomed 11 Guatemalans into sanctuary. We accompanied 10 to Canada where they got political asylum. Just one, a young man, eventually became a U.S. citizen in 2004.

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