Since 2012, we have been fighting to end U.S. immigration detention. Now, we are connecting our work to a larger movement fighting for freedom for immigrants across the globe.
AN INTERNATIONAL MOVEMENT
Freedom for Immigrants, formerly Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC), has identified that the rise of immigration detention worldwide is connected to the rise of the private prison industry, which profits off of each additional person who is apprehended and detained.
The first step to combatting this profit-driven system is exposing it. We believe that the best way to do this is to build powerful relationships between people in immigration detention and communities on the outside through volunteer-run visitation programs.
Freedom for Immigrants is committed to building an international movement of immigration detention visitation programs to shed light in a consistent manner for the first time on this hidden system.
Freedom for Immigrants also has identified that the United States maintains the oldest and largest immigration detention system that other countries have used to model their own state responses to migration. We have a responsibility to ensure that the United States upholds the human rights and dignities of all individuals within its borders because U.S. policies and practices haves far-reaching effects worldwide.
In the United States, our strategy is two-fold.
First, Freedom for Immigrants mobilizes a network of 1,500 watchdog community members that uncovers and tracks abuses experienced by those in the immigration detention system through volunteer-run visitation programs. Our network conducts over 54,000 visits to over 40 of the largest immigrant prisons each year. We also run the largest national hotline for incarcerated immigrants, which provides people with a free phone call to report abuse.
Through these unique windows into the system, we gather data and stories on a daily basis to counter false narratives about immigration detention. We also collect data and stories in order to determine local, regional, and national trends in immigration detention so that we can file federal civil rights complaints that hold the government accountable. We have found that the data and stories we are collecting allow us to challenge injustice at the individual level, while also pushing wide-scale systemic change so that we can ultimately defund immigration detention through Congress.
A community-based ALTERNATIVE TO DETENTION
Freedom for Immigrants is creating a community-based alternative to traditional immigration detention that is humane and less expensive than the status quo.
In 2013, Freedom for Immigrants created a demonstration model for a more humane way to assist immigrants that is run by community groups, inspired—in part—by the federal Refugee Resettlement Program.
In the first year and a half, volunteers secured the safe release of 284 asylum seekers in Northern California. Freedom for Immigrants is now expanding on the scope of its demonstration model by engaging local and federal governments in supporting a community-based alternatives to detention that replace immigration detention beds with holistic community support for all immigrants, eventually capping (and then eliminating) the number of people in immigration detention.
With careful data tracking, Freedom for Immigrants is proving that this new model is less expensive than immigration detention, and also leads to more successful outcomes as families are kept together, not torn apart.