(Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention)
Immigration detention visitation
AVID spearheads the US immigration detention visitation movement to end the isolation of people currently being detained in isolation and suffering from the profit-driven system of incarceration. Established in Southern California in 2009 as a 501c3, AVID now reaches immigrants in over 43 detention facilities nationwide through volunteers who provide support, a listening ear and news of the outside world to immigrants who feel alone and abandoned. (excerpted from www.endisolation.org)
On a local level, the Las Cruces AVID initiative was established 3 years ago by our church member Jan Thompson. Volunteers visit immigrants and asylum-seekers detained at one of 4 locations in El Paso, Chaparral or Sierra Blanca. Referrals for visitations are initiated by attorneys, chaplains or by other detainees who are already being visited.
Need for more trained visitors
A cadre of approximately 90 local residents have now completed the two-hour training that is required before a volunteer can be assigned to visit a detainee, but not all are able to make visits. The orientation provides background on the immigration detention system, logistics of detention centers and the role of the volunteer. Volunteers are assigned 1:1 to a detainee with the expectation that they visit regularly (weekly or 2-3x/month) to listen, offer friendship and give hope to individuals who feel alone and isolated. The average visitation period for a volunteer, before a detainee’s status is resolved, is six months. Only 18 individuals are currently being visited regularly by local volunteers. There are another 6 individuals waiting to be assigned a visitor.
Living conditions, quality of food and communication “with the outside” are key challenges for these immigrants, so the Las Cruces AVID has established a central fund to help individuals pay for phone calls to their family, to help purchase snacks from vending machines to supplement their inadequate diet and to purchase a set of clothing if needed when they are released from detention. These needs are identified through volunteer visits.
Make a donation
In 2017, the UUCLC agreed to manage the AVID fund, following board approval. Tax-deductible contributions to AVID can be made at any time by making checks payable to UUCLC and noting “AVID” in the memo line or you can donate to the “AVID drive” online.
Become a volunteer visitor
If you have questions or want to be a volunteer visitor, contact Jan at email@example.com.