With the advent of an anti-immigrant administration, good-hearted people across the country are floating ideas for resistance to violations of human rights up to and including mass deportation. Many see this as part of a broad inclusive movement of resistance to anticipated policies and actions that are white nationalist, misogynist, racist and/or homophobic. Strategic development will take time, movements emerge in protest and organizing activity. In the meantime, efforts to offer solidarity and defend immigrants can take lessons from the homegrown resistance activities of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
For baby boomers, many of us in our youth thrived - and suffered - through years of resistance to an unjust war. The tools of that movement-building trade are readily available now and in motion, from donations to coalition building to acts of solidarity such as sanctuary. Efforts in the 60s and 70s were aimed at encouraging and defending young men who did not want to fight in another country’s civil war on the far side of the globe. Initiatives ranged from education about the true nature of the war in Vietnam (often led by returning Vietnam vets), counseling services for young men subject to the draft as well as those already enlisted and looking for a way out, legal defense, civil disobedience, sanctuaries especially in churches, and networks of safe houses. Antiwar activists were patriots of the highest order, putting themselves on the line to stop our country from pursuing an unjust war and to defend those who would not serve.
Sanctuaries today emerge when a city or university directs its employees, including police, not to report undocumented immigrants to federal authorities. A sanctuary movement some years in the making is spreading rapidly in the wake of the recent presidential election. For this university-based website we will do our best to understand, monitor and publicize the spread of sanctuaries, especially on college campuses. We will also follow major national developments: in Los Angeles, for example, the police chief has reaffirmed the LAPD’s unwillingness to work with Homeland Security on deportation, no matter what policies a Trump administration might pursue.
Sanctuaries and safe houses can help inspire a movement of resistance while offering protection to individuals and families who may be targeted. As during the war in Vietnam these are significant acts of citizen engagement, asking people to step forward in solidarity in ways that can cross over into civil disobedience. Sanctuaries and safe houses are of course not solutions; for this we need immigration reform that both decriminalizes and offers paths to citizenship. An expanding movement of resistance to inhumane and unjust policies can help lay the social and political groundwork for future reform.