Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest

 

Supporting Immigrants with Dignity while in Detention and Upon Release

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Who We Are

A largely all-volunteer organization, we visit detainees inside the Northwest ICE Processing [detention] Center, greet them as they are released, then help them to reach their loved ones all over the country.

AIDNW has been doing this work since 2005

Vision Statement

We offer a welcoming community that affirms the dignity of all immigrants and facilitates a pathway toward independent and productive lives.

Mission Statement

Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest supports immigrants in detention and when released through welcoming services focused on transitional support and connection to vital resources for resettlement.

What We Do

We provide assistance:

Our Phone Access and Volunteer Visitation end the isolation of detained immigrants.
Our Welcome Center and Post-Detention Accompaniment Network (PDAN) volunteers offer safe release services and support.
Our Hospitality House offers safe and welcoming temporary housing to those who need it.

We increase awareness:

Many people are unaware of the Northwest Detention Center on the Tacoma Tideflats. With 1,575 beds, it is the nation’s fourth largest.
We offer educational programs on detention issues and give presentations to churches, schools and universities, civic groups and community organizations.

 

Sharing Common Goals

· World Relief
· Northwest Immigrants Rights Project (NWIRP)
· Tacoma Community House
· St. Leo’s Catholic Church

Many local congregations offer us continued, vital support.

AIDNW Board

Tim Chen, Chairman/President
Sharon Olson, Treasurer
Bob Spangler, Secretary
Stteffany Duran
Len Johnson
Tonia Honeycutt
Kendall Burch
Louisa Beal
Patti Kilpatrick

 

Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest (AIDNW), is a 501©(3) non-profit organization dedicated to serving detained immigrants at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC)

Our Impact

Diana Perez’ story

I was released from the detention center on March 8, 2016. I was detained for exactly four months and released on International Women’s Day, which is why I don’t forget the date.

My stay with AIDNW that was very short but something that I will never be able to forget. I remember that it was a very cold day, I was released together with my sister Elizabeth who, thankfully, was never separated from me during our detention process. I must confess that I wrote this with tears in my eyes, I will never forget the weather that day, the sky was clear but it was very cold. It was around two or three in the afternoon. The GEO officers just took us out and told us “you are free. Welcome to the USA”. We asked for our relative and they said that he had to come and pick us up soon and that we couldn’t wait inside. The GEO officer pointed to the AIDNW RV and told us to go there and that they would let us stay until our relative arrived. It was getting late and dark, it was really cold or my body was just reacting in a scared way. I had no shoes or socks, the only jeans I had in between moving from one detention center to another were ripped and I was wearing scratchy and not warm sweatpants that GEO gave me. Much less did I have a 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.

The journey that I experienced to get to what I do right now has been one of the hardest journeys of my life. I originally managed to get my law degree in my home country. Arriving here and having many barriers including the language, not knowing anyone, being in a whole new culture, place, environment. I didn’t know if I wanted to continue with that career since the harm I suffered in my country was derived from wanting to help and because of the passion I felt for my career. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep doing the same work because of the trauma of being involved with activism.

Over time I realized that that passion to help had not died. I had to convince myself that it was necessary to first prepare myself and be able to speak English and be able to communicate correctly and effectively. I realized that my legal skills had not died and that they were only there to be taken up again and to use all my knowledge, 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. Yes, I struggled to be accepted, even, in some places they made fun of me and the passion I felt. It was no longer about money, power or position but about helping those who have no voice, who are judged, who are not understood. All the challenges that I received and continue to receive because I am still learning, I try to overcome them in the best way, overcome them and continue to grow professionally and personally, 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.

Well, those who first helped us were you, then my special and great thanks to the non-profit organization Tacoma Community House who gave me all their available resources to be able to remove all those barriers that we think are impossible to remove from our path. TCH offered me education such as ESL, ABE courses. They offered me legal help as well as social workers and mental help. They helped me create solid foundations to get ahead in this place. Thanks to them, we got help from the NWIRP (Northwest Immigrants Rights Project), another nonprofit organization, who helped me and my sister with our asylum case.

My special and big shout out to Novo Legal Group for giving me the opportunity to further develop my skills and knowledge to continue fighting and helping our immigrant community who deserve quality legal defense. I’m also grateful for them having accepted to take my case so that I have the opportunity to prepare my own asylum case since we are still in the process of fighting, thanks for being my guide to emerge victorious not only in my case but in that of all our clients to whom I put all my passion and love for my work in each of their cases.

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

September 21

9:30 – 11:00 a.m

Our guest speaker will be Caitlin Wasley of Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) in Seattle. She has worked in refugee and immigrant services since 2009

Please save the date

The meeting will be held in person or 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 March 16th, 2022

Featuring 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

AIDNW Community Mtg April 21, 2021

 "Passages: Immigrant Experiences" by the artist  Patti Kilpatrick and poet William (Bill) Fay