New Visitation Program at Aurora Detention Facility

CIVIC is excited to announce the launch of the first visitation program in Colorado.  The visitation program is run by Sarah Jackson of Casa de Paz.  Here is a little more about the visitation program in Sarah’s words:

Colorado immigration detention, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement, CIVIC, immigration detention visitationOne of our programs just launched is the visitation program. We have all the volunteer trainings and debriefs at our home, where men and women recently released from detention also can stay for a couple of nights while they’re waiting for transportation back home.

We have six volunteers who have gone through the training and visited people in immigration detention! 

An unexpected moment. Waiting inside the detention center is typically boring. Not much going on…maybe some kids playing and a few side conversations happening. But today was different. I was waiting with another volunteer to visit a man, when a lady caught our eye. She was frantically stuffing a coat into a full backpack. She kept repeating, “I should’ve bought a bigger backpack. I should’ve bought a bigger backpack.” She was packing the bag her husband would receive once he was deported. And she couldn’t fit the  coat in. Desperately her voice began rising and she became more and more frazzled. They could tell she was trying so hard to give her husband one little gift which would make his new life in Mexico a little warmer.

Suddenly, the guard stepped out from behind the desk. Preston and Sarah immediately thought he was going to ask this woman to leave because she was making such a scene. He slowly walked toward her, heavy boots stomping on the ground. And just as he came within a couple of feet to the backpack, he outstretched his hands and did something completely unexpected. He began folding the clothes as tight as he could to try and make all the items fit inside the small bag.

The woman stopped what she was doing, looked up and simply smiled. They began working together and within five minutes the bag was full of all the things she brought – including the coat.

What we witnessed was powerful. We saw two humans, two different lives, come together to reach one goal.

The power of visitation. Two of our volunteers visited two brothers who were being detained inside the same detention center at the same time. One of the brothers
confessed, mid-visit, that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to talk to anyone. He thought perhaps the visitor would be boring and just preach the whole time. The last thing he wanted was someone telling him the decisions in life he had made were bad and he deserved where he was.

At the end of the visit, he couldn’t express more thankfulness for the time they spent to come say hi and be his new friend. He said, “I didn’t think anyone would come, but you did, and for that, I cannot stop smiling.”

It’s OK if your don’t speak Spanish.  I doesn’t speak great Spanish. But, I try so hard. One day I visited a man whose first language is Spanish and really understands little English. But, we managed to find ways to communicate using body language and gestures. After about thirty minutes of struggling to put sentences together, I heard the guard came in to announce our time was up. We gave each other a final goodbyes and I turned to leave. I turned back and looked over her shoulder. The man whom I had just visited had wrapped his arms around his shoulders, mimicking a hug. This was one thing I knew how to translate perfectly. A huge smile washed across my face and I hugged him back.

Visitation is about community.  Dante is a DJ in Denver. His life isn’t impacted on a daily basis with immigration policies tearing families apart. One day, during a meeting, one of the DJ’s he employs casually mentioned his brother was being detained. And, because of his status, he could not visit his brother. Dante immediately wanted to help so he offered to visit. He made a list of all the things the family wanted to pass along, and after completing a short training at Casa de Paz, he visited this young man. The next week Dante went back to visit him again, and this time he was told the man was no longer there. Fearing the worst, Dante called his employee to see what was happening. He thought he had been deported. However, he quickly received great news because he learned this man had been released and was actually spending Thanksgiving with his family.

Visitation is about welcoming. One man had been held inside the detention center for over four months. Nobody knew he was there because his whole family lives in Mexico and he didn’t want them to worry. When we realized he wanted a visitor, we went into action as soon as possible because four months with no outside contact is something we hate to hear about. We heard from the volunteer that during their time together he said, “It’s so rare for two angels like you to come visit. Nobody does things like this anymore. Thank you.”

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