Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest
We support immigrant detainees and welcome them on their release
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The AIDNW post-detention Welcome Center, located in an RV outside the release gate of the Northwest Detention Center, has been in operation since July 2015. Staffed by trained volunteers, the Welcome Center is open Monday through Friday from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. to serve the needs of released immigrants and their families. Each week, some 30-40 immigrants are released from the Detention Center.
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.
Due to COVID we are currently unable to provide hospitality to overnight guests, but we are able to pay for one or two nights in a local hotel for those who cannot travel immediately. For 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 Hospitality House is still an option. Our Host Coordinator lives at the house and is available nightly to assist these guests. Masks are worn, social distancing is practiced, and sanitizing is done following CDC rules.
We have adapted our services to offer extended stays of three to six months as rooms are available, to a limited number of immigrants who plan to stay in the area. Guests must have negative COVID 19 test results before coming to the house. 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.
Please note: Under current COVID conditions, visitation is not possible inside the detention center. In its place we have an active penpal program. Quarterly Volunteer Orientations have also been temporarily suspended.
AIDNW volunteers have been visiting detainees at the Northwest Detention 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 Detention 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 from community members can provide a vital sense of connection to the outside world.
AIDNW Visitation Volunteers offer regular visits to immigrant detainees at the Northwest Detention Center. Visitors 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 visit their matched immigrant partners 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 at the Detention Center 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 in attending a Volunteer Orientation, which are held quarterly, please email email@example.com
Post-Detention Accompaniment Network
PDAN volunteers drive newly released immigrants from the Welcome Center to the bus or train station or the airport.
Some immigrants who have been released do not immediately leave Tacoma. These are people who have been granted asylum or been released on bond, and they may be eligible for various social and community services. AIDNW volunteers assist immigrant guests at our Hospitality House 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 2018 AIDNW provided $1800 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 Tuesdays or Thursdays from 11 – 4 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
Changes to our programs under COVID 19
- The AIDNW Welcome Center is working outdoors and we are taking all necessary precautions to protect both our volunteers and our guests.
- Hospitality House is still able to accept guests who need to wait a few hours for transportation. While overnight stays to traveling immigrants are no longer possible, we have started to offer extended stays of 3 – 6 months to immigrants to who plan to make their home in the area (COVID test required) .
- PDAN volunteer drivers are busy taking released immigrants to the airport or to hotels for overnight stays before airport travel.
- Visits are not allowed inside the Detention Center, but our volunteer visitors continue to connect with detainees by writing letters.
- Clothing and other in-kind donations are being accepted only through our Amazon Wish list and can no longer be dropped at the house.
- Monetary donations continue to be accepted through the mail and the website https://aidnw.org/how-to-donate/
PowerPoint Presentation on AIDNW Services
Join our Google Group
Join our email Google Group to receive notification of news and events, current volunteer opportunities and donation needs.
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.