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Critical Dialogues in Latinx StudiesA Reader$
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Ana Y. Ramos-Zayas and Mérida M. Rúa

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9781479805198

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: January 2022

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479805198.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM NYU Press SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.nyu.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of NYU Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in NYSO for personal use.date: 27 June 2022

Borders and Crossings

Borders and Crossings

Lessons of the 1980s Central American Solidarity Movement for 2010s Sanctuary Practices

(p.27) 2 Borders and Crossings
Critical Dialogues in Latinx Studies

Susan Coutin

NYU Press

In the 2010s, “sanctuary” has become a key term for immigrant rights advocates who seek to protect and empower immigrants regardless of their legal status and for restrictionists who condemn policies that treat the undocumented as members of US communities. Yet sanctuary has an earlier history, dating back to the medieval custom of granting church refuge to fugitives. During the 1980s, US congregations declared themselves sanctuaries for Salvadorans and Guatemalans fleeing political violence, death squads and civil war in Central America. Drawing on ethnographic engagement with the 1980s movement and over three decades of engaged research within Central American immigrant communities in the United States, this contribution describes the conditions that led Central Americans to seek asylum in the United States, sanctuary practices developed during the 1980s, and the connections between those events and current Central American migration and advocacy. The 1980s movement laid the groundwork for today’s struggles, yet fueled hierarchies of deservingness by distinguishing political refugees from economic immigrants. Current solidarity work can avoid such divisions by transcending borders, creating alternatives to state-based categories of membership, and building communities of practice. Through transnational work, sanctuary activism can counter the histories of exclusion that underlie racialized divisions between citizens and noncitizens.

Keywords:   sanctuary, Central America, immigration, activism, political violence

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