Freedom for Immigrants works to end the isolation of people in detention through an extensive network of volunteers
Freedom for Immigrants supports its network of visitor volunteers by creating and sharing resources to assist them in their advocacy work.
These resources have been located or developed in partnership with people directly affected by the system, their family members and loved ones; visitation program coordinators, volunteers, and advocates in other fields; and community members.
We are continuously updating this resource database.
Below you will find the following:
- Guide to Visiting People in Detention
- Guide to Starting and Coordinating Visitation Programs
- Guide to Inspecting Immigrant Prisons and Jails
- Guide to Working with Transgender Individuals
If you have any questions or suggestions for resources to include on this page, please contact the National Visitation Network Program Coordinator Rebecca Merton at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To combat the isolating experience of immigration detention, communities throughout the United States are establishing volunteer-based visitation programs offering friendship and a connection to the outside world.
Community visitation programs not only transform the hearts and minds of individual visitors by providing them with opportunities to build sustained relationships with persons in immigration detention, but also ensure that persons in immigration detention can maintain family and community ties.
Additionally, visitation programs are often the only consistent community presence in immigrant prisons and jails, and they can provide civilian oversight to a system that has little public accountability.
This continuously updated guide developed by the Freedom for Immigrants network draws upon the experience and knowledge of coordinators, visitors, and advocates around the country.
It provides information and advice for people who visit and support people in immigration detention, covering critical aspects of U.S. immigration policies and and best practices for people working with individuals in the immigration detention system, including the following:
History of the U.S. immigration detention system, policies and discrimination
The role of visitor volunteers in dismantling the detention system
Reasons to visit and support people in immigration detention and why just visitation is not enough
This parallel guide draws upon the experience and knowledge of people who have started and coordinated visitation programs around the country, presenting a series of steps to undertake when founding programs as well as guidelines for coordinating, including:
- Differences between formal and informal visitation programs
- Requesting and participating in community stakeholder visits
- Recruiting and training visitor volunteers
Visitor volunteers and other advocates can request an inspection tour of an immigrant prison or jail and the opportunity to interview people inside who sign up to speak with them. This how-to guide will walk you through how to conduct an inspection.
Transgender people are at especially high risk of being harassed and sexually assaulted in immigration detention. Freedom for Immigrants created the training video below as an introduction to gender and identity to help visitor volunteers best support transgender individuals in detention.
Our training video explains, for example, how definitions in queer settings do not function in the same way as in dictionaries. They are fluid and changing all the time. People have different relationships to the terms they use to describe their identities. The best way to proceed in getting to know someone is to ask questions and not make any assumptions. This promotes a sense of respectful curiosity. Similarly, one should avoid trying to understand another person within rigid categories that do not allow for difference. A good practice is to give the person you are getting to know the opportunity to define their own identity.
Other subjects the training video goes over include:
Gender Identity, sexual orientation, and gender expression
Temporary vs. permanent changes
The transsexual experience (SOC, costs, journey, documentation)
Who are transgender individuals?
Transgender community challenges
Global stigma, violence, and discrimination
Police and prison reform recommendations
Transgender support groups
Other Resources to Support People in Immigration Detention
History & Context of Immigration Detention:
Guide to Launching a Dignity Not Detention Campaign in Your State (Freedom for Immigrants) In 2017, Freedom for Immigrants co-sponsored SB 29 in California, the Dignity Not Detention Act, the first law in the country to end for-profit immigration detention expansion. Learn how you can introduce a Dignity Not Detention Act in your state.
The Visitor Volunteer Role & The Practice of Law (Freedom for Immigrants) Learn more about what visitor volunteers can and cannot do to support people in immigration detention on their immigration cases.
Policies & Procedures for Visitor Volunteers Who are Legal Professionals (Freedom for Immigrants) Visitation programs in our network frequently encounter legal professionals 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.
Rebuilding Trust: A Case Study for Closing and Repurposing Immigration Detention Facilities (Freedom for Immigrants) In 2018, Freedom for Immigrants published this 72-page report that offers a case study on the Santa Ana City Jail. As we work to achieve our mission of abolishing immigration detention, we need to take steps not only to close immigrant prisons and jails, but also to repurpose them into spaces that serve the public.
Impact of Detention & Deportation on Families: