Immigrant Welcoming: ICE Detention

In the United States, tens of thousands of immigrants are detained in county jails and for-profit prisons every day. The system of detention utilized by ICE (Immigration and Custom Enforcement) is huge and becoming harder and harder to navigate by the immigrant detainees. They may face months or years of detention, as our immigration courts fall further and further behind. Since the detained immigrants are not being held for criminal offenses, they don’t have the same rights as someone facing criminal charges-including the right to an attorney for their immigration hearings. The immigrant detainees have an infinite number of stories-some have been detained by ICE after serving time in prison for a felony or misdemeanor, some have been “picked up” by ICE off the streets or from their cars or homes after living and working in the United States for years, some have just crossed into the United States without documentation, and many are seeking asylum in the United States and fear for their lives in their native country.
Currently in Minnesota, five county jails receive federal monies to house ICE detainees: Ramsey, Sherburne, Freeborn, Carver, and Nobles. Throughout the country, there are hundreds of detention facilities which provide 34,000 beds each day for ICE detainees.
RUCC has generously supported an organization called Conversations with Friends through our endowment funds for the past three years. This volunteer organization was founded by Reverend John Guttermann, who passed away last year. Conversations with Friends (CWF) volunteers provide visits to ICE detainees at the Freeborn and the Ramsey county jails twice a month. The group spends about an hour with the detainees in conversation, sharing stories, singing, and simply letting them know they are not alone. CWF sends books to the detainees upon request, to help the men pass their time during many long days. The group also offers the detainees an invitation to participate in a couple of other options. One is a letter writing program and many of the immigrants state that receiving a letter brightens their day. Also, the detainees are asked if they want to be a part of the Circle of Compassion. RUCC participates in this program. You may have noticed periodic bulletin inserts listing the names of the people who have asked to be on this list. The Circle of Compassion is a group of churches and individuals who have agreed to pray and think of these detainees often to help assure them they are not forgotten.
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