Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest
Supporting Immigrants with Dignity while in Detention and Upon Release
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The AIDNW post-detention Welcome Center, located in an RV outside the release gate of the NW ICE Processing Center, has been in operation since July 2015. Staffed by trained volunteers, the Welcome Center is open Monday through Friday from 2:30 to 7:00 p.m. to serve the needs of released immigrants and their families. As many as 30 immigrants are released from the detention each night.
Welcome Center volunteers provide a welcoming place for immigrants to experience their first moments of freedom, with telephone access to call family or friends, assistance in arranging onward travel, warm clothing as needed, backpacks and document bags to carry their belongings, snacks and soft drinks, and arrangements for safe housing for those who need temporary shelter.
Most importantly, immigrants released from detention immediately receive a heartfelt welcome by a community of people who reaffirm that they deserve to be treated with dignity.
Tales from the AIDNW Welcome Center
AIDNW leases a house in Tacoma, for immigrants released from the NW ICE Processing Center who need a place to stay for a day or two while family members make arrangements for their travel, or for up to six months for a limited number of immigrants who plan to stay in the area.
Those who need a place to stay for only a few hours while they wait for their family to come to pick them up. Our Host Coordinator lives at the house and is available nightly to assist guests. Masks are worn, social distancing is practiced, and sanitizing is done following CDC rules.
During their stay at Hospitality House these guests are matched with a volunteer buddy who meets with them on a weekly basis, takes them to their appointments, connects them with local agencies for additional legal and educational services, takes them grocery shopping, and helps them to get to know Tacoma.
For 2 ½ years, in-person visits were not allowed because of the pandemic, and AIDNW volunteers turned instead to writing letters to detainees. We are happy to report that the NW ICE Processing Center is open again for in-person visits and our Visitation Program volunteers are back inside!
AIDNW volunteers have been visiting detainees at the Northwest ICE Processing Center since 2013. Our Visitation Program expanded substantially in 2018, building on a positive relationship with detention center management. Detainees can now telephone AIDNW on a dedicated line to request a visitor. Requests have increased dramatically as a result, and we are actively recruiting and training more volunteers for the program in order to answer this need.
How can visits from a stranger help people in detention?
The Center holds people for months before they are released or deported. Detainees must await the decision of an immigration judge while their case is pending, or for the final adjudication of their case that may or may not allow them to continue their lives in the U.S. Many detainees come from a great distance and do not have friends or family near enough to visit regularly. They may worry for families left without their support. In the face of this uncertainty and isolation, friendly and consistent visits or correspondence from community members can provide a vital sense of connection to the outside world.
AIDNW Visitation Volunteers offer listening ears and compassionate hearts in an act of friendship to reduce isolation and affirm each person’s human dignity and worth. Our volunteers are not attorneys or social workers, but are everyday citizens from all walks of life, who visit in an act of friendship, and the desire to affirm the human dignity and worth of every individual.
How does the Visitation Program work?
AIDNW office volunteers receive requests from interested detainees and match requests with Visitation Program volunteers. Visitors then plan to send correspondence to their matched immigrant partner at least twice a month. Ideally, each match continues for the duration of the immigrant’s detention, but re-matches are made if a visitor must withdraw, or when either party requests an end to the match. It is not necessary for volunteers to be fluent in a language other than English.
Those interested in volunteering begin by attending an AIDNW volunteer orientation session, submitting a volunteer application, and undergoing a background check. One of our two visitation mentors then meet with new volunteers for one on one orientation and training. Quarterly meetings provide opportunities for Visitation Volunteers to ask questions and discuss any program changes. Volunteers also share experiences through a Google group email list.
If you are interested please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Post-Detention Accompaniment Network
AIDNW volunteer drivers serve a critical role by taking newly released immigrants from the Welcome Center to the airport, bus or train station, or to our Hospitality House. A limited number of immigrants stay at Hospitality House for up to six months. For these guests, PDAN volunteer drivers assist them in accessing services by providing transportation to:
- the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) office in Tacoma for food cards
- the ORCA lift at DSHS for discounted bus passes (Thursdays only)
- World Relief offices in Kent for work permits, Social Security Cards, job placement, ESL classes, and permanent housing
- Tacoma Community House for work permits, Social Security cards, ESL classes and job placements
- Local medical facilities
- Local food banks
- The bus station for onward travel
AIDNW volunteers also offer the simple gifts of companionship and other welcoming support to our Hospitality House guests.
This can include:
- Taking guests on outings to the park, library, local theater, etc.
- Cooking a meal for guests
- Sharing a craft or skill
- Sorting donations of clothing, household items, toiletries, etc.
- Cleaning and doing laundry after each guest relocates
- Gardening and yard work
If you are interested in becoming a PDAN volunteer please contact Deborah Cruz email@example.com.
When immigrants are unable to hear the voices of family and friends because of a lack of resources, we end that silence by providing phone cards to connect them with the outside world.
In 2021, AIDNW provided $12,000 in phone cards to immigrants detained in the NWDC.
Books and Art Supplies
For immigrant detainees, the hours inside are long and stressful. Having books to read or supplies for artistic creations can help to fill the time. AIDNW has worked with ICE to get books into the NW ICE Processing Center and to establish an Art Supply Bank, the first of its kind that we know of inside an immigration detention center.
Donations are welcome! Donations may be shipped to our Hospitality House, 1915 S. Sheridan Ave., Tacoma 98405 or dropped off on Monday, Wednesday or Friday from 11:30-3:00 pm (see details below*). Paperback books in any language are welcome, so long as there is no writing or marking inside. For art supplies please see our Amazon Wishlist for acceptable items
*DIRECTIONS FOR DROPPING OFF ITEMS: Ring the doorbell and for social distancing keep 6 feet back . If no one answers put the packages inside the gate to the left of the door, or on the back porch and call 253-572-9659 to let the office know.
News and Events
IN-PERSON VISITORS NEEDED
Asylum seekers are brought from the southern border to the Northwest ICE Processing Center on the Tacoma tideflats. They can spend months in detention here, and many are eventually deported. Detained persons can request in-person visits by an AIDNW Visitation Volunteer, and we currently have more requests than we can answer. Please see https://aidnw.org/our-programs/ for details on our Visitation Program and fill out a volunteer application LINK
We continue to greet asylum-seekers who are released from detention, as many as 25 people a day. Your support allows AIDNW to offer coats, backpacks and other needed supplies, or funds to maintain operations. Please see our Amazon wish list or donation details: aidnw.org/donate. Checks can be sent to our office at 1915 Sheridan Ave Tacoma, WA 98405.
It takes a village! We are grateful for all of our community support.
March 15, 2023
10:30 – 12:00 a.m
Our guest speaker will be Melissa Nitsch, Senior Public Engagement Specialist of the Office of the Immigration Detention Ombudsman (OIDO). The OIDO provides independent oversight of immigration detention facilities, conducts unannounced inspections and handles complaints about potential violations of immigration detention standards.
Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP so that we know how many people to expect.
Please save the date
Seeking Board members, including a Board Chair, to guide this vibrant, vital organization as we work to expand our presence in both the online and local community.
To express interest, please fill out a volunteer application LINK and check "board" at the top
PowerPoint Presentation on AIDNW Services
AIDNW is on Radio Tacoma!
Tune in to hear our monthly reports that feature interviews and heart-warming excerpts from the nightly Welcome Center action. You can listen to the reports at https://radiotacoma.org/aidnw or on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 5 pm, Wednesday at 7 pm on 101.9 FM
AIDNW was featured on KGHP Radio's Harbor Chat!
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: email@example.com
Tacoma Arts Live video
“Reflections in the Shadow of Tahoma: Welcoming Immigrants” https://vimeo.com/755754981 AIDNW is featured at minute 3:41)
AIDNW Community Mtg January 19, 2022
Guest speaker Julie Braker, Staff Attorney Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP)
AIDNW Community Mtg August 18, 2021
Three presentations on the immigrant detainees held and released from the Northwest ICE Processing Center
AIDNW Community Mtg June 16, 2021
Guest Speaker Stephanie Murray, detention center post release coordinator for World Relief