Mount Mercy University will host Iowan Shanti Sellz on Monday, October 29, for the Global Issues Series. Sellz will share her story of illegal immigration at the Arizona and Mexican border, human rights and time spent in federal prison for helping others. Sellz will speak at 2:00 p.m. in Betty Cherry Hall on Mount Mercy's campus. The event is free and open to the public.
Border patrol agents arrested Sellz on July 9, 2005, for transporting three immigrants needing medical attention from Arivaca to Tucson. Sellz and Daniel Strauss were charged with transporting migrants and conspiring to transport migrants. Both charges are felonies under U.S. federal law, and if convicted they would have faced up to 15 years in prison and up to a $500,000 fine.
Despite Sellz's lawyer's attempts to argue that the aid workers were not guilty of smuggling, U.S. Magistrate Bernando P. Velasco refused to dismiss the case. The human rights group, "No More Deaths," persuaded Judge Raner C. Collins to overrule Velasco and drop all charges against Sellz and Strauss, and on September 1, 2006, all charges were dismissed.
Sellz and Strauss were awarded the Oscar Romero Award for human rights on April 22, 2007, for their work with "No More Deaths." The award is presented periodically to organizations or individuals who display their courage and integrity in defense of human rights.
Hundreds of individuals die crossing the desert into the United States each year. Sellz's story has helped bring attention to the human rights battle by gaining attention of Amnesty International and thousands of other human rights activists around the nation.
As a Catholic institution, Mount Mercy University welcomes speakers who address diverse topics and represent various backgrounds in the pursuit of educational discourse. During public occasions, guest speakers may express opinions that do not necessarily reflect the mission and values of Mount Mercy or are necessarily endorsed by official institutional positions and policy.