Community Support Network eNews – 11/14

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

As the holiday season is upon us, Access to Justice would like to express the gratitude we have for the remarkable work you all do to help migrants impacted by detention. In partnership, we continue advocating for the end of family detention as you will learn more about in the news below.

This month, we are especially grateful for the work of our New York/New Jersey hub. Our partners AFSC, CCAN, HIAS, and First Friends presented their work to the LIRS Board at their late October meeting in New York City. Further, thank you to AFSC who hosted the meeting and First Friends who accompanied Board members on a tour of local detention facilities, including the opportunity to actually visit with detainees. It was wonderful to have our Board engaged in and learning about issues surrounding immigration detention.

Earlier this month, Angela Edman from our team joined Sr. JoAnn and Sr. Pat from ICDI in their weekly prayer vigil outside the Broadview Immigration Processing Center, also joined by Bishop Wayne Miller of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod and other Lutheran leaders from the area. Thank you, ICDI, for your tireless advocacy efforts for immigrants in detention.

Warm regards,
Liz Sweet

A Community Support Thanksgiving

CSN_Thanksgiving_300Because Thanksgiving is not typically celebrated by most individuals served by our Community Support partners, the holiday season can be a great time to incorporate meaningful cultural orientation for immigrants on the traditions of the United States. Not only is it a time for learning about what American families do on these holidays, it can also initiate conversation about where our holidays and traditions originate, and how we can build off these complicated histories in a meaningful and productive way. This month we hear from three of our Community Support Network housing partners about how their organizations celebrate Thanksgiving.

Casa Marianella, Texas:
The residents at Casa Marianella’s shelters are all immigrants, many very new to America, so the holiday is a different experience for us than it is at many American homes. At the Casa adult shelter, a former resident comes to the shelter and leads a huge tamale-making operation in the kitchen, the scent of cooking meat, vegetables, corn and spices penetrating every corner of the shelter. As the day progresses, the shelter fills with staff members, AmeriCorps alumni, former residents, volunteers and donors. If the weather is nice, everyone eats outside. Each year is different, and once the food is digested, a big soccer game may evolve or a movie marathon could fill the afternoon and evening. At the Posada Esperanza shelter for women and children, we have a big group feast, brought to the shelter and served by a group of local volunteers. The volunteer moms cook up all of the traditional dishes and deliver them on Thanksgiving morning along with folding tables and chairs and place settings. It looks beautiful, and the tantalizing smells draw everyone from their family bedrooms to the community meal. The Posada families help heat the dishes and then are treated to a delicious feast when everyone can sit down together and share a bountiful meal. Turkey, ham, potatoes, green beans and pies are always a part of the meal.

Casa Mariposa, Arizona:
Thanksgiving is a complicated holiday for many of us. This is especially glaring in the borderlands of Arizona where active indigenous organizing against occupation by Border Patrol and mining companies helps to keep in the consciousness current and historical occupation of indigenous lands and genocide. With Mariposas in Tucson, we generally incorporate political education as part of our orientation to this US-based holiday. Our main group meal generally happens the evening before, Wednesday night, as Casa Mariposa hosts a weekly Wednesday night dinner every Wednesday. There, amidst prayers to end occupation and genocide, new residents also receive orientation to some of the typical foods of “Dia del Pavo” and community of love, support, and chosen family.

Sarah’s Oasis, Minnesota:
At Sarah’s, we have a dinner annually to celebrate Thanksgiving in November and this year it is going to be on Thursday, November 20. We invite our current residents and they may each invite one guest. Some former residents will also come as well as all of the staff and volunteers are invited. Because the countries of origin of our residents do not have a Thanksgiving holiday, the staff typically has prepared the dinner (for our other dinners, residents make what is culturally traditional for their holidays, holy days, and diets in their home nations). This year, Sarah’s Advisory Council has offered to prepare the dinner! As always, it will be a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with turkey and fixings, and will include dishes prepared with no animal products (butter, milk, meat, eggs) as many of our residents do not consume animal products as part of their faith or culture. We get creative and figure out ways to make healthy, delicious alternatives! We decorate with centerpieces made with items from nature and will have a way for residents to record their gratitude on bits of paper on a large photo tree and to write ‘thank you’ in their native languages for each of the centerpieces. After dinner, we will light the tree in the courtyard with a lighting ceremony including a story of light and Christmas traditions around the world.


LIRS at Work: A Report on the Human Rights Violations of Family Detention Centers

“The [detained] woman…speaks up to tell me that she has a four-year-old daughter detained with her [who asked,] ‘why are we “presos” [prisoners]?’

As a lawyer, there are lots of answers that I can give people in detention…But as I looked around the faces of these women, I had no answer to that four-year-old’s question. What explanation do we have for detaining breastfeeding babies, two- and four-year-olds? What explanation do we have for putting 532 women and children-98% of whom seek protection from persecution-into a newly converted detention center?” –Liz Sweet, Director for Access to Justice

LockingUpFamilyValues_300This month, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and the Women’s Refugee Commission released a report titled Locking Up Family Values, Again: The Continued Failure of Immigration Family Detention. The report is an extension of the organizations’ 2007 report titled Locking Up Family Values. Although the most recent report was written seven years later, it presents many of the same findings as the first report; chiefly that there is undeniably no way that families can be detained humanely.

The 2007 report was written in the midst of controversy surrounding the Berks Family Residential Facility and the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Facility, which were the first facilities to detain immigrant families. After several failed attempts at improving living conditions in these facilities along with media exposure, advocacy, and a lawsuit, the Obama Administration stopped detaining families at Hutto, and only used the Berks facility for short-term detention of families who could not be released while waiting for asylum screening interviews.

However, as a response to the large numbers of women and children seeking refuge in the United States from violence in Central America, family detention is again being utilized in the United States, and it is even more widespread than before, despite the large proportion of these families seeking asylum and posing no flight or security risks. Informed by tours of the Artesia and Karnes facilities and interviews with facility and government officials, detainees, and service providers, Locking Up Family Values, Again finds that family detention is in violation of both individual due process rights and international law.
In September 2014, 98% of families detained at Karnes were seeking protection in the United States, and by detaining these people, there is a huge risk for retraumatization and even permanent psychological trauma. These are not the only perils detained families experience; these vulnerable people are also particularly defenseless against abuse, which has been documented in multiple instances at Karnes. At the Artesia facility, the average age of children is six. It is inexcusable for our government to expose anyone, let alone such young children to these risks.

The report demands that the government cease expansion of family detention and instead, institutionalize release into community support programs for families who are not identified as a security risk. These programs and other alternatives to detention are not only more cost-effective, but have also been proven successful in ensuring that participants appear for court hearings.

This report only reaffirms the work that Access to Justice and its partners are doing. It has been proven time and again that alternatives to detention are viable substitutes to the traumatizing and dehumanizing method of detention currently in practice. We are so thankful for our partners, volunteers, and advocates who continue to walk alongside these families and other detainees advocating for more humane alternatives.


Valuable Resources

Upcoming Events

ATJ Network call: Thursday December 4, 2-3pm EST
Please contact for call in information.

Visitation Ministry 101 Webinar Tuesday December 9, 3:30-4:30pm EST
Register here or email

Credible Fear Interview Webinar Thursday December 11, 2-3:30pm EST
Email to register.

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.