Q: Do you think when a refugee arrives in this country, he says, "Gee, I think I'll go live in Takoma Park because it's a sanctuary"?
A: Not really. It's not something that encourages refugees, but it lets them see a different perspective of the American people. It shows a city is concerned and aware of the refugee problem.
Q: Why does a town become a sanctuary? Because it wants to make a political statement?
A: I believe it's based on a town's Christian principles, on its humanitarian principles. There are more than a million refugees fleeing El Salvador. These people are forced to leave their land and families, everything they have. This is not an easy thing to do. The peasants are very attached to their pieces of land. When they are forced to leave, it's something that hurts them very much. And coming to the United States is not an easy transition -- especially when they know they are not welcome.
Q: So when a town declares itself a sanctuary, it's a symBFpathetic act.
A: Yes, that's the reason. We have an obligation to people from other countries who are in this position. Sanctuary towns realize there is some connection between the war in El Salvador and the policies of the administration, and they want to raise their voice and say, "Hey, we as Americans want you to do something to make a better way for Salvadorans."
Q: Suppose more refugees were to arrive in Takoma Park now. Wouldn't that place a burden on the town?
A: It's really a difficult question to answer. Only a few Salvadorans, those few who have political asylum here -- about 2 percent -- are dependent on social services. And there are no federal social services for undocumented people -- not even in sanctuary cities.
Q: And what about the charge that these refugees take away jobs from legal residents?
A: I can find for you a study demonstrating that refugees, rather than taking jobs from people here, add to the wealth of the nation. It's a well-documented study.
Q: Some people are making fun of Takoma Park. It's a nuclear free zone and now this. What do you say to such people?
A: Well, you know, there are different perspectives to life. I really admire a community like Takoma Park, which is taking care of all its human -- humanitarian -- issues, which are important not only to one's personal life but to the whole community.