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Government Informer Describes Sanctuary Actions

November 22, 1985

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ The chief witness against 11 people accused of smuggling Central American refugees into the United States testified Thursday that he saw a Salvadoran family leave Mexico with a defendant and arrive that day at an Arizona church.

Jesus Cruz, a government informer, also told a U.S. District Court jury that two other defendants encouraged Central Americans to enter the United States and to claim they were Mexicans if they were caught.

Cruz, 58, was the first witness to testify in the trial. The defendants, who are charged with conspiracy, say the Salvadorans and Guatemalans they are accused of smuggling were refugees fleeing political oppression, but the prosecution contends the aliens were merely seeking better jobs.

Cruz, a Mexican national with permanent U.S. resident status, testified he agreed to become an informer for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service because he feared being deported for transporting illegal aliens from Arizona to work on farms in Florida.

The informer said he saw a Salvadoran family of seven at the Nogales, Mexico, home of defendant Maria del Socorro Pardo de Aguilar on May 5, 1984. Codefendant Mary K. Doan Espinoza arrived in a van with children wearing what appeared to be Catholic school uniforms, he said. The Salvadoran children donned similar uniforms, and the entire family got into the van and left with Mrs. Espinoza, Cruz said.

Cruz said he drove to the Sacred Heart Church in Nogales, Ariz., later that day and saw the Salvadoran family there.

The informer described two visits he made to a Mexican prison with Ms. Aguilar and codefendants Philip Willis-Conger of Tucson and the Rev. Ramon Dagoberto Quinones, of Nogales, Mexico. Quinones and Willis-Conger each gave Central Americans in the prison telephone numbers to call in the United States, Cruz said.

Quinones told the aliens that other contacts in Mexico would help them return to the U.S. border if they were deported from Mexico to their home countries, Cruz said.

Cruz testified that Quinones told the aliens that if they crossed into the United States and were apprehended they should tell officials they were Mexicans so they would be deported there instead of to their home countries.

The aliens were advised not to sign any documents without a lawyer’s advice, Cruz said.

Willis-Conger gave the Central Americans similar instructions, Cruz said. He added that neither Willis-Conger nor Quinones advised the aliens to contact U.S. immigration officials.

Quinones, during a break in the trial, said Cruz ″lied from the start. ... I would like to be Christ and give him a kiss in retribution for the kiss Judas gave Christ.″

Defense lawyers have said Cruz received about $15,000 for providing information to the government.

The other defendants are Quaker activist James A. Corbett, 52, Tucson; the Rev. John M. Fife III, 45, Tucson; the Rev. Anthony Clark, 37, Nogales, Ariz.; Sister Darlene Nicgorski, 41, Phoenix; Peggy Hutchison, 30, Tucson; Wendy LeWin, 26, Phoenix, and Nena MacDonald, 38, Lubbock, Texas.

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