One of the hallmarks of the visitation movement is peer support. This work is very difficult, and it is always wonderful to know that there are other people who are willing to listen to us as we cry and support us as we grow.
I normally do not write openly on this blog, but I’d like to start and I hope others will join me. The last few weeks have been very difficult for me. I have seen too many people deported, and I have spoken to too many people who are suffering.
About three weeks ago, a woman was deported from the United States. We were told by an ICE Assistant Field Office Director the day before that there were no plans for her deportation. However, she called her volunteer visitor at 3 a.m. saying that she was being transferred somewhere. She had been woken up in the middle of the night, and she was not told where she was going.
It took us eight hours to locate her. ICE eventually confirmed that she was being deported that day, and we made it down to the staging center right after she had been “released” (i.e. put on a bus and deported). She didn’t know she was being deported until the very last minute when ICE handcuffed her and walked her to the bus.
Today, I spoke with an amazing visitor volunteer who has been visiting a man in immigration detention for over a year. He has been representing himself. When he read the most recent ruling from the judge, he thought it meant that he had won his case and was being released. In reality, the ruling meant that he had lost his appeal and would soon be deported.
Again, we have been told by ICE that there are no plans for his deportation. We are all in the dark. It leaves me with a heavy heart–knowing that this man will soon be woken up in the middle of the night, and without being told where they are taking him, ICE will put him in shackles and deport him. This could be tomorrow, the next day, or week from now…
I think the worst part is just not knowing.
May 21, 2013
For Immediate Release
CIVIC & Jesuit Refugee Service/USA
Training volunteers for immigration detention visitation programs
(Washington, D.C) May 21, 2013 — Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) — the national immigration detention visitation network — believes that ending the isolation of people in immigration detention starts with being a good listener. CIVIC teamed up with Jesuit Refugee Service/USA (JRS/USA), a longstanding partner of the U.S. visitation movement, to create two training videos: one on how to be a good listener and the other on how to recruit volunteers to the immigration detention visitation movement.
“For decades, there has been widespread and genuine ignorance of the U.S. government’s practice of detaining asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking, and other immigrants with longstanding community ties,” said Christina Fialho, co-executive director of CIVIC. “But if each visitor volunteer could recruit just one more person to the movement, our immigration detention facilities would no longer be invisible to the community.”
The videos draw on the experience of three detention visitation groups: Conversations with Friends, Friends of Orange County Detainees, and the Hutto Visitation Program. The video on listening skills explains for visitor volunteers the qualities of a good listener and offers practical tips for listening and visiting people in detention. The volunteer recruitment and screening video reviews how visitation groups have recruited their volunteers through word of mouth, networking, social media and Spanish language media. Then, it discusses how different groups use their orientations, applications, background checks, and other methods to vet their volunteers.
“Accompaniment is the defining element of JRS/USA’s mission,” said Sean Kelly of JRS/USA. “The accompaniment provided by CIVIC’s network of visitation groups offers people in detention a sign of hope during a very challenging, uncertain, and stressful time.”
Watch the Videos Here:
More information on how to start a visitation program or get involved with the U.S. immigration detention visitation movement, can be found here: http://www.endisolation.org/resources/for-visitors/.