On January 23, while the Inter-American Symposium on Sanctuary was taking place in the same city, John Fife, Jim Corbett, and Phil Willis-Conger were arraigned in Tucson, Arizona. They and 13 other sanctuary workers had been charged with 71 counts, including conspiracy and harboring and transporting "illegal aliens." Evidence against them included tapes surreptitiously recorded by informants planted by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Their trial date is set for April 2.
Stacey Lynn Merkt was convicted of transporting refugees in May 1984 and given two years' probation. She went to trial again in February on similar charges.
John Fife is pastor of Southside United Presbyterian Church in Tucson. Jim Corbett is a retired rancher. Phil Willis-Conger is project director for the Tucson Ecumenical Council Task Force for Central America. And Stacey Lynn Merkt works at Casa Romero, a hospitality house for Central American refugees in San Benito, Texas.
As participants in the sanctuary symposium, Jim Wallis and Joyce Hollyday had the privilege of meeting and conducting the following interview with the four indicted church workers the day after the arraignment in Tucson.
Sojourners: Could you talk about how your faith relates to the work you're doing, and particularly to your determination to continue doing the work in light of the threats you have received from the government?
Stacey Lynn Merkt: I think that I would start by saying that my faith is my work, and my work is my faith. I believe in the sanctity of life, and that has carried me through the last 10 years or so.