Last week, Christina Mansfield of CIVIC met with representatives of the Brazilian Immigrant Center (BIC), the Brazilian Women’s Group (BWG) and Boston United for Families: Resist the Raids (BUFF) to discuss how to support immigrants who are detained in Massachusetts and their families. The group plans to use a manual CIVIC developed, entitled, “A Guide to Touring U.S. Detention Facilities and Building Alliances,” (being released on December 18th to honor International Migrants Day and the December Visitation Month of Action). The manual outlines how to use a policy Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued in 2011, called the Visitation Directive, in order to start a Community Visitation Program.
The new coalition has decided to focus its effort on supporting immigrants who are detained by ICE at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility in Plymouth, Massachusetts. While immigrants detained at the Suffolk County Facility in Boston benefit from the consistent community support of the Refugee Immigrant Ministry (RIM), the Plymouth County facility lacks any consistent community presence. The coalition plans to request a tour of the Plymouth County Correctional Facility sometime in February. As part of the tour, the group will also have the opportunity to interview and talk with immigrants who are detained in Plymouth to learn about their needs and how the coalition can organize to address them. CIVIC will assist the coalition in how to use this tour as the first step in starting a consistent Community Visitation Program at the Plymouth County Correctional Facility. The coalition has identified and reached out to other immigrant rights organizations in the area, inviting a representative of each to accompany the group on the tour, in the hopes that these representatives will act as the point of contact for future community organizing.
Community Visitation Programs end the isolation of men and women in U.S. immigration detention by providing them with a volunteer visitor who may act as a friend and advocate. Visitor volunteers help to connect immigrants in detention to their family members, to pro-bono legal counsel, and other networks of support. Community Visitation Programs are often the only regular outside presence in U.S. detention facilities, placing visitor volunteers in a unique position to protect against human rights abuses in detention and ensure that each person is treated with dignity. If you are interested in joining CIVIC’s movement to end the isolation and abuse of immigrants in detention, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Christina Mansfield and Christina Fialho, Co-Executive Directors of CIVIC, can provide one-on-one and sustained capacity building support to groups that would like to start a Community Visitation Program in their community. Visitation programs transform communities by engaging community members in what is happening in their own backyards. As a result, immigration detention is no longer an invisible practice because visitors are sharing stories from within detention with their families, friends, churches, and schools – building awareness and hope.