This Day in History

March 24, 1982: The Sanctuary Movement Starts in Arizona

Time Periods: 20th Century, Post-Civil Rights Era: 1975 - 2000
Themes: Immigration, Latinx
Sanctuary movement TDIH | Zinn Education Project

Sanctuary organizers in Philadelphia, PA.

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.

The Teaching Central America website offers a lesson, Roots of Immigration from El Salvador and Current Policy Debates, that incudes the Sanctuary Movement.