The Sanctuary Movement was a religious and political campaign in the United States that began in the early 1980s to provide safe haven for Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict. The movement was a response to federal immigration policies that made obtaining asylum difficult for Central Americans.
Sanctuary Movement in Champaign Urbana:
The Champaign Urbana Ecumenical Committee on Sanctuary (CUECOS) organized to actively respond to the concerns of refugees from Central America in C-U. The committee organized a newsletter in hopes to create an awareness of issues that directly affect the people who are fleeing the violence of their homelands. The Champaign County Historical Archives' Local Newsletter Collection includes three CUECOS newsletters from March, May and August 1991 edited by Claire Szoke and Kathy Fries. These newsletters provided the latest news and updates related to Central American refugees and included addresses for U.S. representatives and the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala to urge readers to send letters of protest. CUECOS also offered their representatives to speak at local church or community groups to create awareness of current issues that confront Central American refugees.
Romero Remembrance Services
On March 24, 1980, Archbishop Oscar Romero was assassinated by the Salvadoran Military. Since his death, religious groups in Champaign-Urbana have sponsored a service commemorating his life and works. The CUECOS Newsletter announces the time and place of this annual event. (C.U.E.C.O.S. Newsletter: March 1991) Champaign County Historical Archives.
In 1992, CUECOS and PACA sponsored an event called the Pastors for Peace Caravan to Nicaragua, which took vehicles and humanitarian development aid to the people of Central America. The caravan stopped at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Champaign on July 17th, 1992. The event included a summer salad potluck on the lawn, music and updates on what was happening in Nicaragua. Of important note, Rev. Lucius Walker Jr., executive director of IFCO and pastor of the First Salvation Baptist Church in Brooklyn was a highlighted speaker of the event. Rev. Walker addressed the struggle for autonomy of the indigenous people of Nicaragua's Atlantic/Caribbean coast. As it was the 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival on the continent, this struggle paralled those of indigenous people in the U.S. and throughout the America.
For more on the history of the Sanctuary Movement in Champaign-Urbana, contact the Champaign County Historical Archives at The Urbana Free Library: https://urbanafreelibrary.org/local-history/using-the-archives