Building a Detention Center Visitation Program

The immigration group has made several important friends in the last month. We met with Jan Meslin, an organizer with the Friends of Orange County Detainees program. She outlined for us several steps we need to take and put us in touch with some good people. It is critical that we do a tour of the detention center so that we know firsthand what the situation is like for the detainees. We have called the phone numbers we have for ICE but they lead to taped messages. Barbara and I are tracking down new numbers, but if you know a direct line or a person at ICE who can help us arrange a tour, well, that would be splendid.

We have also found out about two important, ongoing groups that meet and monitor the detention center. The Northwest Detention Center Roundtable meets monthly at St. Leo's in Tacoma. Made up of non-profits, community groups and concerned individuals, this group seeks ways to comfort and ease the lives of the detainees. The DHS Community Engagement Roundtable meets in November. The group meets formally with ICE officials to discuss issues pertaining to the detention center. The first meeting is open to anyone who wants to go. The second is more tightly controlled. In order to go to the latter meeting I had Dianne Aid submit my name to ICE. I got an email back from an ICE official who added my name to the list for November.

Jan also gave us the name of Christina Fialho. Christina runs the National Visitation Network Leadership Team. This organization hopes to coordinate and support visitation programs across the country. Part of their mission is to identify and build new programs. The NWuuJN conveners joined this network and so will be part of a phone conference call on Thursday, the 13. In this way, we will continue to educate ourselves and build relationships that will help us build our program. Christina also trains volunteers for visitation programs. She runs these trainings for free. Once we have designed a program and recruited volunteers we hope to write a grant to bring her here to train us. In addition, she provided the name of a woman in Tacoma, who with friends has an ad hoc visitation program. So, the National Visitation Network will be a powerful resource for us.

In addition to the visitation program, Barbara has been working closely with the Northwest Immigrants Rights Project to find a venue in Tacoma to do legal trainings. This would be a terrific opportunity for UUers in Pierce County to support immigrants in that area.

Finally, we are preparing for the Justice Summit. Gaye Shy will speak about her work with Brenda, a former detainee. Brenda will speak of her experience. Frances will tell us a little of her work with immigrants in Tacoma.

Immigration is a complex issue. Focusing our energies on constructing a visitation program will engage many UUers who are interested in serve work. Please get involved and stay involved. We need to work together to make the visitation program a reality.



gunn, p. (2012). Building a Detention Center Visitation Program . Retrieved from