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'Injustice's Lack of Sanctuary'

June 03, 1986

Please refer to your editorial (May 22), "Injustice's Lack of Sanctuary."

You "found nothing surprising in the conviction of eight Sanctuary Movement activists for 16 felonies," as I found nothing surprising in your position thereon; I did, however, find myself in opposition to your view, a common occurrence.

The central issue here was, and is, the question of determining political refugee status. The defendants insisted that they were empowered to ascertain and declare such status in defiance of the law; they were simply tried for and found guilty of feloniously harboring undocumented aliens so identified. The federal judge was correct in precluding extraneous issues, as was the jury in finding them guilty of infraction of the law.

The notion that a court and jury can try the constitutionality of an odious federal law and set it aside at will seems deeply embedded in your philosophy. If the courts were empowered to make laws, we would at least have less use for Congress.

You leave be bemused and mystified by the assertion that "action in conformity with their religious traditions to provide sanctuary to persons in flight from tyranny" justified breaking the law, and that the defendants should have been heard in this regard. As the judge ruled, that was simply superfluous information, having nothing to do with the charges.

Unfortunately, I am aware that people "take the law in their own hands" every day in determining to ignore laws, but such determination does not relieve them of being lawbreakers.

As a matter of related interest, I must ask, why did those "political refugees" pass a United Nations Political Refugee camp in Mexico near the border of Guatemala on their way to the Rio Grande? It was established to receive and protect them.

L.D. SMITHEY

Pacific Palisades

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