Community Support Network eNews, April 2014 issue
|We hope everyone had a wonderful Easter!
April has been a busy month around LIRS. We are happy to report that our database rollout is complete, particularly thanks to some long hours inputting all of your 2013 data by both Megan and Julia! We just submitted our report for the Detained Torture Survivors initiative which was a first major test of ATJNet – thanks to all of you for working through this transition. And of course we hired our new Network Coordinator who we will be welcoming in June.
We look forward to seeing many of you this May at the CIVIC retreat, DWN conference and during our site visits to NY/NJ and Texas. If you will be attending the DWN conference, we hope to gather together perhaps over lunch so please let me or Megan know if you will be there!
Every night, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials release individuals from immigration detention at bus stops and street corners across the country. Carrying only the personal possessions confiscated during their apprehension, men and women are left alone to secure safe housing or arrange for transportation to rejoin their families. Lack of phone access, an unfamiliar city, limited money to purchase a bus ticket, food and water, and a language barrier are just a few of the many challenges they encounter.
LIRS partners across the country are mobilizing to ensure release from immigration detention is a cause for celebration, not a perpetuation of fear and vulnerability. This month we would like to lift up The Restoration Project, Phoenix and spotlight their community based approach to safe release.
The Restoration Project, Phoenix grew out of the hospitality and restoration movement started by Casa Mariposa and the Restoration Project in Florence, AZ. Committed to collaborating with faith-based groups and people of conscience, The Restoration Project, Phoenix builds a network of mutual support with those being detained and who have been released. They work to restore human dignity and community solidarity through organizing letter writing campaigns, regularly visiting with individuals isolated in immigration detention, and providing short and long-term hospitality for men, women and children.
Additionally, they coordinate a Greyhound ministry, mobilizing a team of volunteers to greet individuals at the local Greyhound station following their release from the Eloy and Florence Detention facilities. Offering a warm welcome, bottles of water, and cellphone access, they restore dignity and hope.
Last fall, the Asbury United Methodist Church and The Restoration Project, Phoenix received The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Refugee Ministry Grant. They were awarded funds to expand their Greyhound ministry through collaboratively transforming an empty classroom in the Asbury Methodist Church into a transitional, short-term women’s shelter. The shelter has the capacity to house 8-10 women for 24-36 hours, offering a safe and warm place for women to rest, until they can reunite with family.
Reflecting on why they do this work, leaders at The Restoration Project, Phoenix shared:
As you move forward in the development of safe release programs, we encourage you think about how to transform unused community spaces into centers of hospitality. The partnership between The Restoration Project, Phoenix and Asbury United Methodist Church offers one possible solution. Congratulations, and thank you for all of your hard work!
For more information on how you can get involved with the Restoration Project in Phoenix email them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 480-442-9634. Make sure to like The Restoration Project, Phoenix on Facebook.
To learn more about their partnership with Asbury United Methodist Church, check out the recently article posted on Church World Service’s website.
A few years ago, Fr. Jack Martin got a call from a local minister, asking if he would host a Sudanese asylum seeker in his rectory. Enthusiastic, but hesitant, he had to confirm with Monsignor Harrington.
Chucking as he recounts the story, Fr. Martin shared, “He smiled and said, ‘What do you think this is – a charitable institution?’”
This month we would like spotlight and thank Fr. Jack Martin of St. Mary of the Assumption in NJ, for his tireless commitment to walking alongside migrants and refugees.
Fr. Martin’s journey became in the late 1980s, when he spent three years working in a UN refugee camp in Honduras. Working with Salvadoran refugees, he got a close look as the challenges facing migrants.
“Having had that experience, I was sensitive to the experience of immigrants, refugees and detainees in the Newark area when I returned home” Fr. Martin reflected.
Fr. Martin also turns to Mt. 25:36 for inspiration. Declaring, “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me’’ Mt. 25:36 calls us to be a compassionate and loving presence. Fr. Martin was recently reminded of this call while on a delegation to Haiti. They spend the first night at a hospice house named Matthew 25.
“That renewed my awareness of that scripture,” he shared. “And remind me that that is what we are responding to when we go to Haiti and to detention facilities.”
Fr. Martin has responded to that call by visiting with immigration detainees, delivering mass at the Delaney Hall Detention Facility, singing hymns outside of the Elizabeth Detention Center, lobbying Washington, and welcoming multiple African asylum seekers into the rectory.
When reflecting on what unique strengths communities of faith bring to this line of work, he emphasized respect for human dignity.
“Whatever the sacred text (Bible, Koran, Old Testament), they all speak about honoring the dignity of every single human, the call to serve others and to be generous and welcoming. All faith communities stand for all of those things.”
First Friends will be honoring and celebrating the work of FR. Martin at their 2nd annual benefit dinner. The event will take place on May 2nd at 7:00pm at St. Helen’s Church in Westfield, NJ. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Chris Hedges, will speak, followed by a gourmet Peruvian dinner. If you are in the area and can join them, register for the event by clicking HERE!
The Village Voice highlighted the LIRS funded Community Support Initiative in New York, NY/Newark, NJ as well as the ICE referral pilot in an article published on April 9, 2014. Three cheers for the local partners whose passion and stellar services were lifted up, especially Sally Pillay at First Friends and Mimi Wilson at American Friends Service Committee – and a former network colleague, Jamila Hammami. Missing from the article was praise for the hard work and dedication of Catholic Charities of Newark and HIAS – two network member organizations that are equally integral to the promotion of alternatives to detention.
The Miami Herald broke a story on the conditions in which migrants are held along the southern border. Network members like RAICES have been tracking the instances of time spent in iceboxes before individuals are transferred to facilities in Central Texas.
The American Immigration Lawyers’ Association’s interview of the month puts the spotlight on mental health in immigration detention for the month of April. Check out the interview with legal service provider, Rebecca Rojas, HERE.
Troubleshooting Employment Authorization Webinar
Do your clients have Employment Authorization post-release? Have they encountered any problems renewing their Employment Authorization? Join LIRS for an interactive webinar exploring issues related to Employment Authorization, I-9, humanitarian parole, and the asylum clock. The webinar will raise issues related to both legal services and case management.
Building Active Listening Skills
Join Pat Gunn from AID NW and Liz from LIRS for an interactive webinar on active listening, particularly geared at visitation volunteers.
Who is the Community Support Network?
In partnership with Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) LIRS launched the Community Support Network in 2012, a national service model to examine the efficiency of community-based services as an alternative to immigration detention. This initiative inspires volunteers and funds non-profit service agencies to offer a continuum of care that facilitates immigrants’ release from detention, immediate support and stabilization services, torture and trauma rehabilitation, and eventually long term integration. In 2012, the Community Support Network served approximately 85 people post-release and brought together over 80 practitioners for a conference about alternatives to current enforcement practices.