Welcome to the movement! Visitors and friends of immigrants in detention have recognized that the work we are doing in our local communities is part of something much larger, something that is gaining momentum each day. Like-minded men and women are finding each other, sharing their stories, and beginning to formulate strategies to end the isolation and abuse of the close to 400,000 men and women in U.S. immigration detention.
For decades, there has been widespread and genuine ignorance of the degradation and violence of life among immigrants held in our nation’s civil immigration detention system. However, this reality is slowly changing everyday as communities establish immigration detention visitation programs, visit one-on-one with those in detention, and support family members on the outside. Visitation programs across the country also are opening up the dialogue between the public and detention facility staff, enabling all stakeholders—including government, community members, nonprofits, academia, business, and philanthropy—to leverage their own distinctive roles to address immigration detention concerns.
Today, we are excited to announce the launch of the first blog written by and for visitors and friends of immigrants in U.S. detention. We hope you will enjoy the short video below, which contains an interview with Will Coley. Will is one of the first visitors to men and women in U.S. civil immigration detention.
More than 12 years ago, he started a visitation program that recruited, trained and matched people on the outside with immigrants at the Elizabeth Detention Facility in New Jersey who wanted a visitor. He started the visitation project to offer psycho-social support, but he quickly realized that he was facilitating their advocacy.
“With their incremental person-by-person approach, immigrant detainees do a far better job at convincing ordinary Americans about the need for immigration policy change,” Will explains. “I believe meeting and getting to know someone personally is the best means for true understanding and change.”
CIVIC is delighted that Will’s program continues to this day with the support of community groups in the New York area: IRATE & First Friends and Sojourners Detention Center Visitors Program. Become part of the movement. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.