Houses of Welcome Provide a Community-based Alternative to Detention
In recent months, Central American families have been crossing the southernmost border of the United States in unprecedented numbers – recent estimates are that 39,000 individuals have made the difficult journey with their families since October of 2013, in addition to tens of thousands of Central American unaccompanied children who have also migrated here. Gang-related violence and organized crime are at an all-time high in Central America, and have sparked the mass exodus. In response to the resulting humanitarian crisis, the Department of Homeland Security recently announced its intentions to hold families in immigration detention facilities, and is expanding capacity beginning with a 700-bed detention facility located on the grounds of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, NM.
Detention is no place for families and children, and LIRS is strongly advocating for humane alternatives. We are now developing a proposal to the federal government for a program that would allow families to be released into the care of communities that are prepared to offer hospitality and support.
If we succeed, families released from immigration detention will need your help, your generosity and your collaboration with other volunteers and organizations. Together, we can provide adequate alternatives to detention that the families seeking protection deserve as they navigate complex legal processes. Specifically, LIRS is seeking support from volunteers, congregations, and organizations to mobilize the establishment of “Houses of Welcome” to serve migrant families who would otherwise have no possibility of release from immigration detention. A House of Welcome would provide communal housing to vulnerable migrant families as they wait for the decision in their immigration legal processes.
How Your Congregation/Organization Can Help
- Donate and/or lease a vacant parsonage, school, church or dorm to serve as a House of Welcome*.
- Organize a congregation wide clothing/furniture drive to donate locally to a House of Welcome when such needs are specifically identified.
- Sponsor a family or multiple families at a local House of Welcome, providing regular transportation, friendship and support.
- Host regular community or educational opportunities for families living in the community or at a House of Welcome.
- Provide Spanish interpretation services, case management services, or immigration legal assistance with appropriate expertise.
*For more information on Houses of Welcome and what is needed, see our accompanying “Backgrounder”.