Sunday, April 04, 2010

Remembering Wyoming's connection to the West's Sanctuary Movement

Cheyenne's Jack Pugh wrote a great column from Tucson for this morning's Wyoming Tribune-Eagle. It focused on the Sanctuary Movement of the 1980s. Members of Sanctuary gave aid to refugees from U.S.-supported right-wing goverments in Guatemala and El Salvador. Many churches in the West were part of Sanctuary's "Underground Railroad," including mine in Denver -- the 10:30 Catholic Community.

Jack wrote about some little-known history. Jim Corbett, one of the founders of Sanctuary, was born in Casper, Wyoming. His father, George Corbett, was a lawyer and Wyoming legislator who got into deep kimchee when he defended conscientious objectors during World War II. It's dangerous to go up against conventional wisdom, but defending a CO during "The Good War" must have been more than daunting. His political career ruined, he moved his family to a ranch in southeast Arizona.

His son, Jim, became a Quaker and traveled the Arizona wilderness with his goats.
"Jim Corbett led refugees across the Sonoran Desert to safety with his goats, sustained by goat's milk and foraging."
I knew the name of Jim Corbett but had no idea of his history or his Wyoming connection. People in the Sanctuary Movement were brave, truly motivated by deeply held Christian principles. I met some of them -- and those they rescued -- at my Sanctuary Church during the 1980s.

People don't understand how tough it is to act on your beliefs. It's one thing to wave signs and shout slogans. I've done my fair share of that. It's another to live your principles, day in and day out, especially when your life and livelihood are in jeopardy.
"In 1985, the U.S. government indicted 16 Sanctuary workers in Arizona for violation of immigration laws. Eight of them were convicted and received probation."
I wish I could send you to Digital WTE to read the rest of the story. But it's not on-line -- I checked. Guess you'll just have to shell out $1.25 for the printed Sunday paper. Jack's column alone is worth the price.

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