Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement

Call for Involvement of Faith Communities in Detention Visitation Programs

Visiting Immigrant women in Detention in Taylor, Texas, came into my life at a particular time.  The first year of my return to Austin, after more than 4 years teaching in Xalapa, Mexico was rough.  Finally I turned 62 and began to receive a small income from sociasecurity– as well as land a studio apartment in a Foundations Communities property. Within weeks of moving into my own place and regaining some stability in my life, I attended an Orientation to Visitation.  Geoff Valdes, who was an old friend from when we were part of Accion Zapatista, had suggested the Hutto Visitation Program to me when I told him that I wanted to get involved with something meaningful – where I could use my Spanish.

In November of 2011 I made my first visit to Hutto, with a woman who had been visiting a woman from Guatemala for a month or so already.  After talking to me on a couple of visits, the Guatemalan woman told me that she knew a woman from Honduras who really needed a visit. That is when I met the first woman I would know from Honduras.  Then there was another woman who wanted a visitor; she was from El Salvador.  I have continued to visit, woman after woman, as ICE continues in its relentless seize and capture mission of Central American refugees.  I have never been to Central America – though some astute students of Colonial and Imperialist history of the region might allow me to count three months in Chiapas as Central America.


Life after detention is not so simple

At the end of April, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) held its first retreat in Southern California. Bob Libal, Rocio Villalobos and I attended as representatives of the Hutto Visitation Program. We were joined by almost 60 participants who came from all corners of the U.S. There were many people who came from 
Florida, Chicago, New Jersey, Alabama, Louisiana and of course, various parts of California. It was surprising to hear about the different regulations and stumbling blocks to visiting that existed in the different detention centers. In the next months, we will be sharing some of what we learned from the other visitors.

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