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Sanctuary Convictions

May 21, 1986

I don't often see apparitions while reading the paper. But a vision came to me as I saw the story on the convictions of the Sanctuary priests and nuns. It was a vision of the death of justice.

That these people could be jailed for their actions comes as a particularly sharp irony at this time. There has recently been a well-publicized effort to refurbish and "face-lift" the Statue of Liberty. Perhaps instead of polishing it, we should all be busy reading it! Whatever happened to "Give me your tired, your poor, your oppressed . . . ?"

These brave clergy are truly the lions of our age. Although they may have violated the letter of the law by sheltering refugees from the Salvadoran blood bath, they certainly acted in the spirit of democracy, a spirit that seems to be lost on the cynical judge who disallowed all testimony in the trial pertaining to the horrific conditions these refugees face if deported back to El Salvador.

Therein lies the chief injustice of this trial! For how can it be called a fair trial if the core issue--the fate facing deported refugees, which motivated the defendants to act as they did--was forbidden to be mentioned?

This is a matter of conscience to all Americans. We are all, regardless of our individual ancestries, refugees from war, injustice, oppression in other parts of the world. That was the spine of our Constitution and our entire basis for being "conceived in liberty." Are we ready to cast aside these ideals when they become temporarily inconvenient to certain politicians?

These refugees are a political embarrassment to our State Department, which is busy trying to convince us all that El Salvador is a model democracy. This is the reason for their persecution, as well as that of their defenders, and the reason for the "double standard" of reception for aliens from nations that the United States is on friendly terms with, as opposed to those from countries our Administration criticizes as Marxist totalitarian. As a matter of national conscience, we must raise a singular voice against this human rights hypocrisy!


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