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27 Am. Crim. L. Rev. 431 (1989-1990)
No Haven in the Courts for the Sanctuary Movement: An Examination of First Amendment and International Law Defenses

handle is hein.journals/amcrimlr27 and id is 441 raw text is: NO HAVEN IN THE COURTS FOR THE SANCTUARY
United States v. Aguilar, 871 F.2d 1436 (9th Cir. 1989).
United States v. Merkt, 794 F.2d 950 (5th Cir. 1986).
Until her criminal conviction in 1986, Maria del Socorro Pardo Viuda de
Aguilar, a sixty-three year old widow and a devout Catholic, devoted herself
to bringing food to prisoners in a jail in Nogales, Mexico, and harboring po-
litical refugees at her home on the Mexican side of the United States border.'
Early in the morning of May 24, 1984, Aguilar handed an envelope to a Sal-
vadoran woman she was harboring. She told the woman to memorize the in-
formation on the false identification document inside. She then disguised the
woman to look more like the photograph on the document. While putting
curlers in the Salvadoran's hair, Aguilar grilled the woman on the details of
her new identity. Later that morning, Aguilar and the refugee crossed the bor-
der on foot without incident.2 Aguilar knew that her actions were illegal; nev-
ertheless, she felt compelled to help the refugee.
Stacey Lynn Merkt, also a devout Catholic, was a twenty-nine year old vol-
unteer at Casa Romero, a Catholic refugee center in southern Texas, when, on
November 21, 1984, she gave a Salvadoran woman five bus tickets to Hous-
ton-tickets she had agreed to buy for the woman and her family so they
would not arouse suspicion at the bus station. Merkt then drove the family to
the bus station in McAllen, Texas, and before they boarded, warned them
about the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) checkpoints along
the bus route. Merkt knew that the Salvadorans were illegal aliens and that
transporting them constituted a crime.3 Still, like Aguilar, she felt compelled
to help them.
The Salvadoran to whom Merkt had given the bus tickets, Marie Rosales-
Cruz, typified the Central American refugees Aguilar and Merkt had helped in
the past several years. Rosales-Cruz had left her home, in the La Union de-
partment of El Salvador, out of fear for herself and her children. Since 1980,
the La Union department has felt the brunt of a brutal civil war that has left
thousands dead and has displaced over one-third of the remaining population.4
1. Brief for Appellant (Aguilar) at 6, United States v. Aguilar, 871 F.2d 1436 (9th Cir. 1989)
(No. 85-008-PHX-EHC).
2. Brief for Appellee (United States) at 33, United States v. Aguilar, 871 F.2d 1436 (9th Cir.
1989) (No. 85-008-PHX-EHC).
3. Merkt had been convicted of transporting illegal aliens only five months before. United
States v. Merkt, No. CR B 84-219 (S.D. Tex. 1984), rev'd, United States v. Merkt, 764 F.2d 266
(5th Cir. 1985).
4. Brief for Appellant (Merkt) at 1, United States v. Merkt, 794 F.2d 950 (5th Cir. 1986)
(No. 85-2264). Nationally, over 60,000 Salvadorans of a population of 5.2 million have been
killed. Numerous human rights organizations have compiled statistics on gross human rights

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