Visitation in Minnesota Expanding!

Conversations With Friends Expands Support of Detained Immigrants

Conversations With Friends (CWF), a visitation program in Minnesota, led its first visit team into the Ramsey County Jail for in-person visits with immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on March 27, 2011.  With the beginning of the New Year, CWF is now an independent Minnesota non-profit corporation that has expanded the services it offers detained immigrants and their families.  Additional services include letter writing, small grants to commissary and phone accounts, and special visits coordinated with attorneys. 
 
CWF is also inviting faith communities to support the program and detained immigrants as Prayer Partners and is giving gas cards to non-detained immigrants in removal proceedings, especially the “border children and families” fleeing violence in their home countries for asylum in the United States. 
 
CWF’s primary goal remains supporting detained immigrants with visits and compassionate conversations. CWF is “interfaith” and “no faith” – there is no faith requirement to either be a visitor or to be visited: visitors are to respect the faith of those they visit.  
 
CWF volunteers attend classes to learn about the United States immigrant detention system, the policies that have criminalized immigrants, how to do a visit, the importance of proper boundaries, and the need to respect the personal integrity and privacy of all they meet (including ICE agents, corrections officers, and other law enforcement).  Visitors complete a form that is given to the County Sheriff for a background check.  
 
CWF also is working on expanding visitation to other immigration detention facilities in the state. For more information: CWF Lead, Rev. John Guttermann, intpasj@mac.com,  651 485-3104.  Rev. Guttermann is a Covenant Minister at the United Church of Christ in New Brighton and the Voluntary Liaison to Faith Communities for The Advocates for Human Rights.