Volunteer Visitation at the Northwest Detention Center

By Pat Gunn

Recently a woman asked me what good visiting detained persons at the Northwest Detention Center does.  “What’s the point,” she said, “of visiting?”

It’s a good question.  People will have different answers.  Here’s mine.

Loneliness is like a gland that secretes pain and fear.  This emotion is a response to the isolation of detainment.  Individuals contend with the emotional pain of separation from their families and the physical discomfort of confinement. They fear their fate–a fate they cannot control. 

So, many persons detained at the Northwest Detention Center live in ever present pain and fear.  The persons in detainment live in separation and hold that loneliness in their hearts.  A visitor is like a salve.  For one hour twice a month, a visitor provides human contact and reassurance that the detained person is not forgotten and is not alone.  Through the process of active listening, a visitor provides space for the detained person to acknowledge their own human dignity.  In this moment, the visitor offers the grace of acknowledgement to the detained person.  A simple and small act of two humans affirming the worth of one another.   I believe it is in this act of recognition that we humans find transcendence. 

Visitation is the starting point for systemic change:  Only through the recognition of ourselves in others can we move forward as individuals and as a society.

Visitor Volunteer Orientation in Miami!

The Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees will be hosting an Immigration Detention Awareness and Visitor Orientation Program. This two hour session, hosted by our visitor volunteers, will give attendees an overview of immigration detention in the United States as well as the knowledge and skills necessary to become a visitor volunteer at the Krome Service Processing Center.

  • Date: Tuesday, March 11, 2014
  • Time: 7-9 pm
  • Place: Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami (7701 SW 72nd Ave Miami, FL 33143)

Reservations are not required, but an rsvp to friendsofmddetainees@gmail.com will be appreciated.

Santa Maria Community Members Say Not 1 More ICE Facility in California

Today, over 100 local, statewide, and national organizations as well as individuals sent the Santa Maria Planning Commission a letter urging the Commission not to approve the developer’s permit to build another ICE facility in California.

After hundreds of community members filled the Santa Maria City Council chamber on January 21, 2014, the latest information we have received from ICE is that ICE is seeking to relocate the existing Enforcement Removal Office personnel, who are working in temporary office space at the Federal Correctional Complex in Lompoc, to permanent office space in nearby Santa Maria.  The new location will have secure space for interviewing and holding for up to 12 hours individuals who are coming into ICE custody following their release from area jails or prisons.  It will not have overnight holding or bed space.  However, as detailed in the planned development permit, the facility will have barbed wire on the perimeter fence and a six-foot-high security fence.  

“Whether ICE’s presence takes the form of an office building, a short-term holding facility, or a long-term immigration detention facility, we oppose the increased presence of ICE in the City of Santa Maria,” said Hazel Davalos, the Santa Maria Community Organizer with CAUSE.

The City of Santa Maria’s increased collaboration with ICE runs counter to the TRUST Act, AB 4, which was signed by Governor Brown in October 2013 and went into effect January 1, 2014.  The TRUST Act recognizes that increased cooperation with ICE can “harm community policing efforts because immigrant residents who are victims of or witnesses to crime, including domestic violence, are less likely to report crime or cooperate with law enforcement when any contact with law enforcement could result in deportation.”

“The Trust Act has made clear that the State of California believes less cooperation with ICE is in the interest of public safety and community policing,” said Christina Fialho, an attorney and co-executive director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC).  “This proposed permit runs directly counter to California’s intentions and will erode public safety and community trust.”

California has the largest population of undocumented immigrants, and the largest deportation rates. The City of Santa Maria itself is a hub of agro-industrial activity and a thriving immigrant farmworker community.  

Come join us:

What: Santa Maria Planning Commission Meeting

When: Wednesday, February 5th

Time: 6:15 p.m.

Location: Santa Maria Fairgrounds (937 South Thornburg Street, Santa Maria, CA 93458)

Who: Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), Central Coast Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE), California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance (CIYJA), and Santa Maria community members.