Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest

 

Supporting Immigrants with Dignity while in Detention and Upon Release

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Our Impact

October 2022 Numbers

Immigrants Served 214
Rides Given 194
Hospitality House Stays 30
Coats Given Out 176
Welcome Backpacks 180
Visits to Detainees 30
Letters Written to Detainees 50
Deportation Bags 12
Phone Funds @ $20 82 ($2000)
Volunteer Hours 978.5

Finding success in the U.S.

Hospitality House resident reunited with his wife

Originally from Colombia, J lived in Chile with his wife and son, until his son’s life was threatened. The family flew to Mexico City, and then to Mexicali, where they crossed the border into the US.  They asked for asylum and were separated and sent to different detention centers, despite J having a marriage certificate.

J said the hardest part of detention was not being able to contact his wife. When he was released, he still had not heard from his wife, and did not have a place to stay. Volunteers at the Welcome Center brought him to the Hospitality House, He said he was treated wonderfully by the Welcome Center, where he received a coat and was able to use the wifi.

AIDNW office staff were able to help him contact his wife’s family, who were then able to reach her at the her detention center, and put her in touch with him. The AIDNW office also helped him contact a lawyer, and through the lawyer he was able to get his wife out of detention. AIDNW staff also found the couple a place to stay in Texas.

J said. “I am very thankful to AIDNW. Words can’t explain how thankful I am for all this organization has done for me and my family. I am very grateful that AIDNW was there for me. “

New start for a Ukrainian Family

In 2018, Dmitry and his wife came across the southern border together and requested asylum. Dmitry was sent to Tacoma, but his wife, who was pregnant, was sent to Texas and released. Dimitry did not know where she was, and his wife didn’t know how to reach him either. After four months in detention, Dmitry was granted asylum, released, and greeted by AIDNW volunteers. He had no relatives in the country, so he was taken to the AIDNW Hospitality House. He asked AIDNW staff for help in reaching his wife. AIDNW Program Manager was able to locate her in a shelter in Texas, where she had had the baby. Given birth to their first child. Dimitry asked if his wife and baby could stay the house as well. This was approved. He bought a car with money sent from his father in Ukraine, and drove to Texas to get them.

The couple and their baby lived at Hospitality House for three months, and AIDNW volunteers enjoyed throwing a baby shower for them. After three months, World Relief stepped in and helped them find a permanent home.

Dmitry got his work permit and began working for a crane operation business. He had worked as a crane mechanic in Ukraine. After only 6 months, he started his own business–mobile crane repair. He has been very successful and has already bought a house and brought his father here from Ukraine. His father now works with him in the business.
Recently, Dmitry has been very active in helping people escape war in Ukraine, getting them to safety in Poland. He says he does so because he is very grateful for all the help he received, and he wants to help others.

Diana Perez’ story

“My stay with AIDNW was very short but something that I will never be able to forget. I remember that it was a very cold day…The GEO officer pointed to the AIDNW RV and told us to go there. It was getting late and dark, it was really cold… I had no shoes or socks…[or] coat to cover me from the intense cold that day. I remember that two beautiful and warm women received us and welcomed us, they gave us coats, hats, gloves and socks. They made us hot chocolate and told us not to be scared. The hug and hot chocolate was the best and warmest welcome I had ever received. From the moment I received that hug, I knew that the nightmare of having been locked up without being able to see the light of day, without being able to breathe fresh air, since I got into that RV, I knew that nightmare was over…”

Before coming to the US, Diana had worked in the legal field.

“ I realized that my passion to help people had not died. I had to convince myself that it was necessary to first prepare myself and be able to speak English to be able to communicate correctly and effectively. But this time I saw that those who needed me were my people, people who were in the same situation as me but who did not have the knowledge necessary to fight to stay in this country and move on with their life and dreams. I fought very hard to find an opportunity in a law firm….

“When I tell my clients that ‘I understand’ it is because I really do, I know how difficult it is to live thinking that at any moment they will come to us with a deportation order. I know what it is to live in fear and the shadow that we will return to the same nightmare.”

Diana now works in an immigration legal office and is preparing her own asylum case.

An Interview with E.

“I grew up in a small town in Cuba. I owned two businesses there but faced many restrictions and government regulations. I experienced persecution by the police and demands for payments. My family also faced serious food shortages. People will wait in a three-hour line to buy a chicken, and when they get to the counter, there is no chicken.
“My family could not buy anything except the basics; there was no way to get ahead. I was threatened with prison various times and I knew my family could not survive if I was in prison. Many people were imprisoned for having their own business and supposedly not following government regulations.

“The oppression became too much. A friend and I decided to leave Cuba. It was a hard decision to leave my wife and two small children, but there was no security for them there.

“I spent six months in detention, and was released in October 2019. I had no sponsor in the U.S. so the ICE officer told me to go the RV parked in the street outside the detention center, that there was an organization there that would help. AIDNW volunteers welcomed me, gave me new clothes, and took me to Hospitality House.

“AIDNW staff there made me feel welcome. I was very happy to finally be free after six months in detention and over a month traveling from Cuba. Staying at the Hospitality House was super good. The AIDNW manager, Deborah, was a huge help to me. She connected me with World Relief, who in turn found me an apartment and provided food and English language learning support.

“I found a job working for a building contractor–12-hour days for $100/ week. I knew carpentry because of my business in Cuba. Of course, he took advantage of my need to work, but I learned how to lay flooring and other building trade jobs. I like math, so construction measurements and carpentry were easy for me to learn. I met a colleague of my employer who is a home designer and had been in the US for 20 years. We talked about partnering in a design-build company. I was used to working for myself in my businesses in Cuba, so I had confidence I could have my own company [here].

“In 2021, we registered a company and began taking on remodeling projects, mainly kitchens. My company is RZ Pro-Construction, LLC, and we are general contractors in Kent, WA. My biggest challenge now is finding skilled carpenters who want to work. I offer $35 dollars per hour. I have hired some immigrants who have work papers, but not all are suited to this type of precise carpentry work.

“I have two goals for 2022. I hope to bring my family here this year, or at least start the process and move it along. And I want to grow my general contracting business. There is an abundance of work here in building and remodeling businesses and I am willing to pay market rate for good employees. I think it will take about 2 years to get my residency and citizenship, which is a longer-term goal.

HAPPY UPDATE: E’s wife and 2 daughters came across the border in September 2022 and are now living together. They still have a long road ahead of them as they navigate through their asylum processes but they are happy to be reunited!

Welcome Center Reports

Monday was a pretty light night. We greeted one man from Cameroon who was granted asylum and was picked up by his brother. Two Indian gentlemen were taxied off to the Sikh Temple. Then we met one man from Pakistan and one from El Salvador, both needed to go to the airport, both out on bond.

The journey to the US was a horrible ordeal for married couple, D from Ukraine and M from Russia. Once they finally arrived in this country and claimed asylum they were separated. He was sent to the Detention Center here and she to San Diego.  He was not told where his pregnant wife had been taken. “Here in Tacoma you get released and there are volunteers waiting to help you. In California you are released to the nearest train station and they didn’t care if you have money or a ticket”.

At 3:45 two men were released, one from Kyrgyzstan who had won asylum after being held for 6 months.  When we took his information we noticed how much he had changed from his ID photo and he told us that he had lost 21 kilos (46 lbs ) during his stay because the food was terrible. He spoke very little English but we were able to patch together his flight arrangements with his sister in Philadelphia, recruiting an English speaking neighbor to help clarify the plan.

The other man was from India but had been residing in Mississippi for the past several years, where he was the owner of two gas stations. He had come out to Washington to attend a family wedding.   He was held for 4 days and then released as he had been held by “mistake.”  As he waited for a friend to pick him up, we talked about AID NW and as he thanked us and left, he handed us a $100 bill.

Last Friday at the Welcome RV was certainly a joyful one! Two women from Guatemala, and three men, one from India and two from Guatemala, were released. All gladly received backpacks, toiletries, and snacks. Four of the five also accepted new clothing. The two women, both young ladies, looked so pleased to pick out fresh clothes – including trendy shoes, jeans, and fashionable tops – and gave no backward glance as they threw away their old clothes.

 

One of these young women was only 19. She had been at the detention center for three months and held in a federal prison before that. Her next stop was to meet family in Florida. She remarked to S that this airplane trip would be noticeably different from her last one, when she had handcuffs on her ankles and wrists.

Yesterday at the Detention Center, nine were released, with seven visiting the Welcome Center.  A woman from Cuba was released at 11am and was waiting at the RV.  A daughter in Houston provided a plane ticket, and she was taken to the bus for a ride to the airport.  She was going to see a two year old grandchild that she had never met.

A woman from Honduras was released after spending 3 months in the Federal detention center at Seatac and a week at the NWDC. She needed to get to her aunt’s in Orange County, CA. After a lot of phone calls and texts, her aunt was able to pay for her ticket to CA. She spent the night at the Hospitality House and will get a ride to the bus station in the morning. I was a little worried as she doesn’t speak any English and has never flown before. The ride from NWDC to the Hospitality House was her first sight of the US. She was quite awed by downtown Tacoma. She said that she left Honduras with her brother because it was very dangerous. Her uncle was killed. Both she and her brother were detained by ICE at the Texas border. His bond was $1,500. hers was $12,000. He was held for a week, she for over 3 months.

Another great crew witnessed amazing things last night. J visited with a gentleman who was sitting in his car. He had driven all the way from California to pay his cousin’s bond because it was to be set at $25,000 but if he came and vouched for the relative, the lawyer felt that the bond could be reduced. He paid $17,000. He came into the RV, and helped us translate for the 7 Sikh people who eventually came out!

Tuesday evening began with the release of a young man who dropped to his knees a few feet after his release and with arms lifted, prayed for several minutes.

Two men from Egypt and Nepal went straight to the airport  A man from El Salvador had his family waiting for him. Despite a horrific history of torture, he was denied asylum and was released on $25,000.00 bond. His wife and her children were very excited to see him.

A gentleman from Costa Rica has lived here 21 years and got picked up two weeks ago. He was very upset that he had never committed ANY kind of crime or misdemeanor and had to spend two weeks in detention. He has a 21 year old daughter who is a US citizen.

Finally, a gentleman from Eritrea came out. He had asylum ! …We now had 2 men and a woman who needed a place to stay… Stephanie from World Relief had called to say they were set up for someone, if we needed… F and I closed up the RV and were thankful for another night of blessings.

We spoke to the Haitian man’s relatives in NYC who got him a plane ticket NYC for 9PM. so J hustled him to the bus so he could make that plane. 

Two men from Sudan, one who had been living in the states for 23 years, were taken to Hospitality House.

We gave ice-cold Cokes and backpacks to all three released, and enjoyed visiting with one young Gujurati man, locating his hometown on the map.

A wife with her newborn and a friend drove from Bellingham to pick up her husband.

A gentleman from Costa Rica has lived here 21 years and got picked up two weeks ago. He was very upset that he had never committed ANY kind of crime or misdemeanor and had to spend two weeks in detention. He has a 21 year old daughter who is a US citizen.

A young male from Eritrea had no relatives in the US. He was taken to the Hospitality House.  The gravity of all the decisions he need to make seemed to weigh on his elation at being out.

A male from Vietnam (whose father was a GI who he had never met) was released. He was picked up by his Latino cell-mate’s wife, who was taking him to Seattle. When the car door opened, her 4-year old daughter screamed out, “Uncle Chong”.

A male from Vietnam (whose father was a GI who he had never met) was released. He was picked up by his Latino cell-mate’s wife, who was taking him to Seattle. When the car door opened, her 4-year old daughter screamed out, “Uncle Chong”.

What we learned was horrifying: People are now being released on $45,000(!!!!!) and $30,000(!!!!) bond! There seem to be “visiting judges” who come in one day a week and seem to be responsible for these aggressively high figures.

Total tonight: 17 released, 15 visiting the van, at least 24 family members present 1 attorney, 2 other visitors.   A busy, satisfying day at the Welcome Center.

News and Events

ASYLUM SEEKERS BEING RELEASED IN LARGE NUMBERS ! 

June 2022: Large numbers of asylum seekers are being brought from the southern border to Tacoma and released from the detention center—15 – 25 people each day. ICE has told AIDNW that this is expected to continue through the Summer. This is double the average number of guests normally served at the AIDNW Welcome Center.

Our volunteers are working in shifts at the AIDNW Welcome Center from 2:30 to 7 PM Monday through Friday and sometimes later, helping guests plan travel all over the country to reach their family members.

This uptick in guests is straining our resources, and ICE has told us that this level of releases is expected to continue indefinitely.

We need:

  • Volunteer drivers
  • Welcome Center volunteers
  • Backpacks

To volunteer please fill out a volunteer application here LINK .  To donate backpacks or other needed supplies, or funds to assist our operations, please see our Amazon wish list  and donation link details:  aidnw.org/how-to-donate.

Checks can be sent to our office at 1915 Sheridan Ave Tacoma, WA 98405.

Thank you!

 

It takes a village!  We are grateful for all of our community support.

AIDNW is on Radio Tacoma!

AIDNW Monthly Reports are a new feature on Radio Tacoma.

Tune in to hear the reports, which feature monthly program statistics, excerpts from nightly Welcome Center reports, interviews and more

You can listen to the reports at https://radiotacoma.org/aidnw

or, if you are in the vicinity of Tacoma Mall, tune into Radio Tacoma at 101.9 FM on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 5 pm or Wednesday at 7 pm.

Program archives are available anytime at https://radiotacoma.org/aidnw

AIDNW Speaker's Bureau

Want to learn more?
Would your school, church or community group like to learn more about immigration, detention, the Northwest ICE Processing Center and the work of AIDNW? AIDNW Speakers Bureau volunteers are available to make presentations-in person or by Zoom. If you are interested please contact: dcruz@aidnw.org

Community Meetings

Join Our Mailing list

Please fill out our mailing list form to be added to the AIDNW mailing list to receive the latest information on volunteer work, community meetings, and events/opportunities:

Next Community Meeting

January 18th

9:30 – 11:00 a.m

Our guest speaker will be Rebecca Merton. Director of Visitation and Independent Monitoring, of Freedom for Immigrants

Please save the date

The meeting will be held  by Zoom. Please email officevolunteer@aidnw.org to register and receive a link

Community Meetings are held every two months and feature a short presentation on topics relating to the detention center as well as updates from AIDNW. Community Meetings are currently held via Zoom. Here are recordings from recent meetings.

AIDNW Community Mtg September, 2022

A presentation from Refugee Women's Alliance

AIDNW Community Mtg March 16th, 2022

A presentation from Lutheran Community Services Northwest

AIDNW Community Mtg January 19, 2022

Guest speaker Julie Braker, Staff Attorney Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP)

AIDNW June community meeting

AIDNW Community Mtg August 18, 2021

Three presentations on the immigrant detainees held and released from the Northwest ICE Processing Center

AIDNW June community meeting

AIDNW Community Mtg June 16, 2021

Guest Speaker  Stephanie Murray, detention center post release coordinator for World Relief