HARLINGEN, Texas -- Stacey Lynn Merkt, the first Sanctuary Movement supporter convicted of an immigration violation, has been granted an early release from prison because of complications in her pregnancy, her attorney said.
Lisa Brodyaga said Merkt's husband, attorney John Blatz, was at the federal prison in Fort Worth today to pick up his wife upon release.
'They plan to just drive out. She needs to go into seclusion, get her health back, rest and wait for the baby to be born,' said Brodyaga, founder of a legal services organization and a refugee shelter for Central Americans in the Rio Grande Valley.
U.S. District Judge Filemon Vela, who sentenced Merkt to 179 days in prison for conspiring to transport illegal Salvadorans, Thursday signed the modified order allowing her to serve 83 days under house arrest. Merkt had entered the Federal Correctional Institute at Fort Worth on Jan. 29.
A doctor who examined her Monday recommended that she be released from the prison because she was anemic, was not gaining sufficient weight and was worried about losing her baby.
Merkt, who has been declared a 'prisoner of conscience' by Amnesty International, suffered a miscarriage last October before becoming pregnant again, Brodyaga said.
Merkt, 32, a native of Richmond, Calif., was a member of the Bijou House religious community in Colorado Springs, Colo., before coming to the Valley in 1982 as a layworker at the Diocese of Brownsville's Casa Oscar Romero refugee shelter. She was arrested in November of that year for allegedly helping transport some Salvadorans around Border Patrol checkpoints toward San Antonio.