The nation looked on last night as the Cambridge City Council heard personal stories of persecution, in its effort to decide a resolution which would affect the city's 5000 Central American and Haitian refugees.
Dozens of local reporters and national television media scrambled to make 11 p.m. news broadcasts with stories of torture, rape and death squads from "Estella Ramirez," "Saul" and "Sonia"-pseudonyms for real life survivors of war-torn Central America.
Emotionally charged testimony by the refugees filled the City Council chambers, as nearly 350 spectators crowded the building and another 100 watched the three hour meeting through closed-circuit television in the foyer.
City Councilor Alice Wolf spearheaded the movement to make Cambridge a sanctuary for illegal refugees currently residing in the city and to protect those Cantabrigians who harbor such refugees.
"I came to this country as a refugee," said Wolf who described her escape from Nazi persecution at last night's meeting. "Without asylum, I would be dead. Several members of my family did not make it."
Wolf said her experience of 40-year ago mirrored the plight of the more than twenty-five Haitian and Salvadoran refugees who mingled in the crowd outside.
"The army takes away everybody...they bomb fields... no one is safe, guilty or now," said one EI Salvadoran refugee who left his percents in Central America.
Speaking about his experience in America, the illegal alien said that many like him are afraid of seeking medical treatment at hospitals or asking policemen for directions for fear of deportation.
The resolution instructs city agencies to provide services to refugees without regard to their legal status.
Most of those in attendance supported the Cambridge move.
"This country is largely responsible for the atrocities going on there," said Boston resident Elaine A. Dellande.
"In this case, it's about all we can do at the local level until the government stops sending money to those countries," she added.
Beatriz Manz, a fellow at the Bunting Institute, said Cambridge's passage of the measure would send a symbolic message to oppressed peoples.
"The people of Central America will be so moved and they will hear about this resolution, about what the people in Cambridge are considering," she said at the hearing.
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