July 15th Marks the Official Start to the Community­-Led Visitation Program in Adelanto

For Immediate Release
July 16, 2013
Friends Contact: Victoria Mena, (352) 562­1386, FriendsOfAdelantoDetainees@gmail.com

July 15th Marks the Official Start to the Community­-Led Visitation Program in Adelanto

Adelanto (CA)­ As one of the West Coast’s largest immigrant detention centers, the for­profit,
GEO facility in Adelanto, CA houses approximately 1,300 men based solely on the fact that they are immigrants. While most people wrongly assume that detainees at the facility are all
undocumented, or criminals, the reality is that there are also legal permanent residents, green card holders, veterans, asylum seekers, and those that would qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA­ a presidential announcement that granted temporary relief to qualifying youth), and other forms of relief all being held at Adelanto.

“The people confined at Adelanto are members of our communities. Family, friends, loved ones who have become victims of our broken immigration system that is now driven by profit motives.” says Victoria Mena, a member of Friends, and resident of Adelanto. “The fact that this is happening in our backyard is appalling. Most people I talk to don’t even know this place is here. After meeting with these guys on the inside, it’s clear that this is not a political issue, it’s a humanitarian issue. People shouldn’t be subjected to detention based on where they were born. We need to come together and do what we can to end the suffering of these men.”

Yesterdays group of visitors came from as far away as Los Angeles, and included faith groups, grassroots organizations and concerned individuals. Visitors shared an hour with their new Friends, hearing about their stories, and restoring some hope that they are not forgotten in the cold brick walls of Adelanto. Although it was only only a short time, the visits seemed to have a positive impact on the men inside.

“The gentlemen I met with were thankful to see and talk to someone from outside the center. They hadn’t seen anyone since they had been brought to Adelanto,” explains Shena Gutierrez, a Friends visitor. “One of the men had a particularly heartbreaking story. With a thick accent, he explained how his family and village had recently been massacred back home, and how he had ended up in Adelanto claiming political asylum. I was shocked and didn’t know what to say. Thankfully, me just being there to hear him meant so much to him. We are Friends now. I’m going to come back and see him next week.”

Hundreds of miles away from Los Angeles (where the nearest Immigration Court is located) and housed in an extremely rural desert setting, Adelanto does not make it easy for detainees to get visits. Knowing the barriers that friends and families face trying to visit their loved ones, Friends of Adelanto Detainees hopes to not just end the isolation of the people inside the facility, but also to be there for their families on the outside. Families and friends who know people inside Adelanto are encouraged to contact the group for additional support.

“We want to be able to help everyone through the process. I know what it’s like to be in detention and it’s something that no one should have to go through. The feelings of isolation and uncertainty are certainly the worst. These Detention Centers are designed to break you down. That’s why I am so passionate about this program because no one should have to endure that horrible isolation,” Luis Nolasco, Organizer with the Inland Empire Immigrant Youth Coalition, and detention reform coordinator with the Justice for Immigrants Coalition who spent time in immigration detention in Georgia.

Working with groups like CIVIC (Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement), the Friends of Adelanto Detainees has come a long way in a very short time. The visitation program has been seven ­months in the making, when the average startup time for similar programs being 2­to 3 years.

“We have had an amazing network of people and groups here to support our start up,” says Mena, “We really have people from all over southern California interested. It
seems that once people find out about the realities of the detention system, they want to get involved. It really has become a community effort, and it’s a beautiful thing.”

Friends of Adelanto Detainees is dedicated to ending the isolation of people in immigration detention through visitation and friendship.