Visit a Detained Immigrant
By Sara Mullally
Originally published in the Arkansas Times, this article was written by CIVIC Leadership Council Member Sara Mullally about visiting immigrants detained in Arkansas.
Everyone should take the time to visit an immigrant in jail, prison or a detention center. It is an eye-opening experience that will redefine the comfortable line you’ve drawn between yourself and those inside. I participate in a program through Arkansas Interfaith Conference, where the only goal is to provide a friendly visit to an immigrant in jail. Immigrant detainees often have no visitors for one or many reasons. Their families fear having to present an ID or may have no way to get to the jail, and some detainees simply have no family for miles. Immigrants can be taken into custody over something as petty as a traffic violation. Once they are in the immigration system, they may be transferred multiple times while awaiting trial or deportation. While detainees are shipped to what can be deplorable, dehumanizing facilities, their families are left in the dark, wondering where their loved ones will end up. The detainees say that even visits from perfect strangers help them cope. It helps them feel human again, rather than being relegated to some Alien Identification Number. As visitors, we gain so much. Through connecting with these forgotten people, our views on immigration and criminal justice are influenced by what happens to the real people we have come to know. Afterwards, we can’t look at our society with the same naive eyes. It’s transformative to see how our government policies affect children, friends, families, and communities. The policies championed at the Capitol take on a different hue when viewed from the perspective of a beleaguered stranger, shielded from the public’s view.