Community Support Network eNews – 12/14

Community Support Network eNews, December 2014 issue
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Dear Community Support Partners and Friends,

Sending you wishes for a happy holiday season from Baltimore!

As it is December, we would like to take a moment to reflect on the past year and to look towards the upcoming year. Throughout the network we have some wonderful accomplishments from 2014. We convened for two national conferences in Baltimore and in Arizona, which further developed our network and clarified innovative ideas for the future. We rolled out ATJNet, which continues to improve as a resource to collect data on the impacts of our work with clients.

Looking forward, we are eager to continue our work with all of you in advocating for and working with migrants impacted by detention. We particularly look forward to greater data collection and sharing of our ongoing learning from ATJNet and other sources in 2015. We hope that we in ATJ can continue to be a source of support for you in your work, and know that your ground-breaking work will continue to inspire us.

As we iterated in the December network call, we want this newsletter to be a resource for the network to share successes, best practices, and valuable resources. However, we can’t do this without your help! If you have story ideas or suggestions on how to make this newsletter more relevant to your work, please contact Christina at

We look forward to our continuing work together in 2015.

Warm regards,
Liz Sweet

LIRS’s ‘Hope for the Holidays’ Card-Writing Campaign

HopeForTheHoliday_300At the beginning of November, ATJ Fellow Sarah Harrs launched our Holiday Card Campaign to send a holiday card to each woman and child being held in immigration detention this holiday season. Detention can be a very isolating experience, particularly around the holiday time, and we wanted to ensure that every detained woman and child knew that someone cares about them and is concerned with their well-being. However, LIRS knew that we could not reach our goal of writing 1700 cards alone! To generate outside participation, we created a Facebook event, added a webpage to the LIRS website, and reached out to our networks with email blasts to organization and church partners.

The response we have gotten so far has been astonishing. We have received cards from families who wrote messages of hope while sitting around the Thanksgiving dinner table; other cards were made out of construction paper and lots of glitter by children in Sunday school classes. No matter the aesthetic of the card, the message is the same: there is deep concern for immigrants in family detention, and there is hope for a better life for these individuals. The original goal was to collect 1700 cards for mothers and children in family detention centers, but as of December 17, we have collected 9035 cards! Don’t worry – we have found a good home for all of the extra cards we’ve received. The extra cards will be sent to unaccompanied migrant children in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shelters.

ATJ is currently creating a discussion guide for those who would like to continue the conversation about issues surrounding immigration detention even after the holiday card campaign is over. This discussion guide aims to provide a basis and structure for holding constructive, healing conversations focused on the humanitarian disaster and the responsibility of Christian individuals. The guide contains: a true story of a woman and her daughter held in a detention facility, facts about family detention, Bible verses and discussion questions, a children’s Sunday school class outline, a prayer, and other ways to get involved.

There is nothing concrete planned yet for next year’s holiday season, but we hope to create a new tradition of organizing compassionate people to send hope and joy to individuals in detention. Thank you to everyone who promoted this project to their networks and to those who sent numerous cards. The enormous expression of support in this campaign gives us hope for a future in which no mother or child is placed in prison for the simple act of seeking safety from the volatile conditions of his or her home country.


End-of-Year Reflections from Access to Justice

EndOfYearReflections_300Beyond all of the accomplishments and the disappointments of a year, it is imperative that we stop to remind ourselves of what grounds us and motivates to do our work in the first place. Please read short reflections from ATJ staff about what motivates and inspires them in their work with immigration.

“My inspiration to do this work comes from a moment I had while working in a Catholic Worker house, long before law school. I was up in the middle of the night, heard the doorbell and opened the door to find a desperate woman, fleeing an abusive husband, with nowhere else to go. Though it was not an unusual experience for that work, in that moment, I felt an awareness of what a privilege it was to be able to offer her safety and dignity. For me, that is the core of what we do for individuals– and strive to do systemically– through Community Support.” – Liz

“This is all the motivation I need, spoken by a former client: ‘You are like some kind of light that has helped me find my way through a very bad time of darkness. I know I can go the rest of the way myself now. But you must promise you will keep shining your light for people like me wherever you go next.’” – Angela

“My motivation comes from our partners, pure and simple. The world of immigration detention was fairly unknown to me prior to joining LIRS in June, 2014. I have since learned the issues, the complexities, the importance of our network’s work from each phone call, conversation, site visit. The shared passion and drive of the network is contagious and compelling. The impact on each client is significant. This is my grounding as I look forward to 2015 to join you in meeting each new challenge and opportunity.” – Matt

“During college, I mentored a 12 year old refugee from Somalia. Hearing her story opened my eyes to the migrant journey, and her courage and hope left me inspired. Soon, her journey shaped my journey, sparking my desire to peruse this field of work. I find great motivation in the transformative power of personal connection. Every day, through the collaborative work of our network, the lives of clients, volunteers and partners overlap and intersect. In these moments, powerful new friendships form, and ultimately all of our lives are changed for the better.” – Julia

“I am inspired by the tireless efforts, innovations, and passion of our partners and others working on issues related to immigration detention. They have shown me that a career can be more than just a way to make a living, but a way to devote your life, talents, and passions to making life better for those who are most in need.” – Christina

“I find my inspiration in the coalition of leaders around the country who are fighting to bring justice to migrants and to be a voice for the voiceless. It is an honor to be part of this powerful group of individuals.” – Sarah


First Friends’ Stamp Out Despair Campaign

FirstFriends_600A major concern for detainees is to be in contact with family and friends, which is difficult for many detainees because they do not have money to purchase stationery, stamped envelopes, or phone cards. First Friends collects writing materials, envelopes, and stamps, and then hosts a packing party to put together packets of these materials to give to detainees so that they can stay in touch with family members and friends.


Valuable Resources

Upcoming Events

Conquering Compassion Fatigue Debrief Call: Wednesday, January 14th, 8:00-9:00pm EST
Please contact Julia Coffin at for call in information.

CS Conversations: Wednesday, January 21st, 2:00-3:00pm EST
Please contact Matt at for call in information.

Who is the Community Support Network?

CSNteamIn 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.