Starting a Visitation Program

(1) Schedule a Tour of an Immigration Detention Facility
To learn how you can schedule a tour, read CIVIC’s manual, A Guide to Touring U.S. Immigration Detention Facilities & Building Alliances.
(2) Get Your Church, Synagogue, or Mosque Involved

To learn more about the effects of detention facilities on communities and how churches can help combat this national phenomenon, check out this webinar featuring CIVIC’s Christina Fialho and Sister JoAnn Persch, who runs a visitation and post-release program in Illinois.
(3) Screen the film, The Visitor (Tom McCarthy’s 2008 Film).  The Visitor, inspired by some of the first immigration detention visitation groups in the country, explores the relationship between Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins), a professor of economics at Connecticut College, and Tarek Khalil (Haaz Sleiman), a Syrian musician, who is detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In 2010, CIVIC joined forces with Active Voice in San Francisco, California, to screen 50 showings of “The Visitor” across the United States.
(4) Write an article for CIVIC’s publication Imm-Print!  Email Tina Shull at with your story!
(1) What is a visitation program? (click here to learn)
(2) Is there a visitation program in your community? (click here for a full list of CIVIC-affiliated visitation programs)
(3) Learn about different strategies for starting a visitation program.  Read Strategies and Stories on Starting an ICE-Approved Visitation Program.

  • The guide includes a step-by-step process to starting an ICE-approved visitation program and stories from three approved programs in Illinois, Minnesota, and California. This guide also showcases visitation programs operating in Texas, New York, and New Jersey.

(4) Learn how to start a visitation program by first scheduling a tour of a detention facility.  Read A Guide to Touring U.S. Immigration Detention Facilities & Building Alliances.

  • ICE’s September 2011 Visitation Directive provides access to detention facilities for any organization or group of individuals that wishes to tour a facility and interview individuals in immigration detention.  CIVIC’s guide explains how community groups can strategically use it to facilitate contact with detention center/jail staff and ICE’s Field Representatives in the hopes of starting a formalized community visitation program.

(5) Learn how to grow your visitation program and begin recruiting volunteers!

(1) Train your visitor volunteers!  CIVIC recommends conducting a 3-hour orientation for visitor volunteers to provide information and guidelines on what it takes to be a visitor volunteer.  Check out CIVIC’s suggested training agenda.  To receive a free copy of CIVIC’s training video on how to be a visitor volunteer, please contact CIVIC at  CIVIC staff also is available to conduct in-person trainings.
(2) To learn practical tips on how to be a good listener, watch, share, and use this short video in your trainings! This video features visitation program coordinators in Minnesota, Texas, and California.

(3) Check out and share CIVIC’s Transgender 101 Training Video & Supplemental Reading Material.
(4) The Visitor Volunteer Role & The Practice of Law. Learn more about what visitor volunteers can and cannot do to support people in immigration detention on their immigration cases.
(5) Have you been asked to write a letter of support for someone’s bond hearing or immigration case? Check out this letter of support checklist and sample letters.
(6) Engage legal professionals as visitor volunteers! Visitation programs in CIVIC’s network frequently encounter legal professionals (attorneys and BIA representatives) with a passion to get involved with visitation. We strongly encourage this involvement, but we also recognize the need to protect the integrity of visitation programs and the rights of people in immigration detention. Download a copy of CIVIC’s Policy & Procedure for Legal Professionals.
(7) Is your friend or loved one about to be deported? Click here for a list of resources by country to help you and your friend in detention prepare for deportation.

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