Dear Community Support Partners and Friends,
Thank you to our Texas, Arizona, and Chicago partners for graciously hosting ATJ staff in the past few months for site visits. We look forward to seeing you again, along with others in our network, at the Access to Justice convening in May. ATJ welcomed Perth Rosen, our new Assistant Director this month and we look forward to introducing her at the May conference.
We are excited to announce the release of a new LIRS resource: the Volunteer Manager’s Toolkit. This toolkit was created to support volunteer engagement in the LIRS network by guiding organizations to implement and strengthen volunteer programs. Further, we will use it as a space for collaboration and peer-to-peer learning across the network by holding trainings, exchanging ideas through working group calls, and by adding new content quarterly based on network needs. If you would like to be a part of any of this work, please contact Christina Andeweg at CAndeweg@lirs.org.
Initiated as a way to help residents learn tangible skills in the face of a severe lack of work opportunities for migrants without status, Tucson Community Support partner Casa Mariposa’s community garden and cooking cooperative have proven to be much more than simply work development programs. This month we talked to Rachel Winch, Director of the Tucson Restoration Project at Casa Mariposa about these two projects run by the organization.
About a year ago, Casa Mariposa decided to get a plot at a local community farm, Las Milpitas de Cottonwood, run by the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona. In response to a great interest in gardening among residents, Casa Mariposa staff soon realized that the plot size was insufficient for their needs and upgraded to a larger plot. Not only does their garden plot provide a steady source of fresh produce for meals at the house, it gives residents the opportunity to learn the valuable skill of gardening and to utilize their time productively while awaiting work authorization.
Further, the act of tending and harvesting a garden has been proven to be therapeutic and healing, especially for asylum seekers who have experienced unspeakable trauma both in their home countries and in immigration detention in the United States. Casa Mariposa staff, volunteers, and residents use the garden as a place of meditation and prayer, both individually and in planned group events.
The garden also provides volunteer opportunities for community members who want to help but don’t have the language skills necessary to work one-on-one with migrants both living in the house and in local detention centers. Planting seeds fosters a partnership between two people whose capacity for communication is hindered by a language barrier by allowing them to share the joy of watching a seed grow into a full, fruit-producing plant.
To allow those in detention to partake in the delight of watching a plant develop and grow, visitation volunteers ask detainees what kind of seed they would like to see grow. After the seed germinates and the plant develops, volunteers take pictures of the plant every couple weeks to show their friend in the detention center. Watching the plant grow serves as a connection for migrants in detention to the outside world that they would not otherwise have, and serves as a source of hope.
In addition to the community garden, Casa Mariposa’s cooking cooperative allows residents without work authorization to earn money for things they need, like a bus ticket, immigration expenses, or money to send to family members in their home country. To earn this money, a resident prepares a community meal shared for a small price, inviting a wide spectrum of people from the community including local activists, church members, and friends. Dreamed up by a former chef from Cuba on the car ride to Casa Mariposa after being released from detention, the idea has been repeated by other residents as well and has been a wonderful way to bring the Tucson community together to experience different cultures through food.
Both the garden and the cooking cooperative have proven that food is a great tool to unite people of all nationalities, faiths, and walks of life in sharing one another’s cultures. Thank you, Rachel and Casa Mariposa, for sharing your story with us this month!
In response to the alarming increase in the practice of family detention in the United States and with support from the Oak Foundation and the Ford Foundation, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is building a new Alternatives to Detention program for families, called the Family Placement Alternatives (FPA) program. Currently it is a six-month micro pilot program in Chicago intended to serve ten families, providing case management services to mostly women and children who would otherwise be placed in a deeply retraumatizing jail-like setting, but will be implemented in hopes of expanding the program to serve a greater number of vulnerable migrants.
Built off experiences and learning from LIRS’s Community Support Initiative, it will serve as an advocacy piece in LIRS’s fight against the practice of family detention. Families served will be primarily from Central America who arrived in the United States in the past year fleeing violence and torture in their home countries. Providing services for family units will present different challenges than serving individuals, but there is great potential for learning that can be applied and expanded to serve more families with the eventual goal of eradicating family detention in the United States.
Unlike ATJ’s Community Support program, FPA will not provide housing as a part of its services. Instead, it will have an intense focus on case management, aiming to connect clients with the services they need to live successfully in the United States.
Lessons learned from the micro pilot program will aim to inform a potential expanded Alternatives to Detention program for families in more cities across the United States. Throughout the six months of the micro pilot, LIRS will work to record and assess experiences and data from the work in Chicago, and hopes to use this information in expanding the micro pilot to serve a greater number of vulnerable asylum seekers affected by family detention.
Along with the new program, Access to Justice is excited to welcome Vicki Kline as the Manager of the Family Placement Alternatives Program. Most recently she worked in Mexico City at the Institute for Women in Migration (IMUMI) researching and developing resources for transnational families, but she has also spent two years on the border in Tucson and Nogales supporting various humanitarian groups including No More Deaths and Casa Mariposa. A native of Baltimore, Vicki has returned to the Charm City to work at LIRS, where she worked previously in the Children’s Services department prior to her stints in Arizona and Mexico. If you have any questions regarding the new family program, please direct them to Vicki at VKline@lirs.org.
- Watch the music video of the song titled, “Serenata a un Indocumentado,” created by Los Jornaleros del Norte, the “house band for the immigrant rights movement,” part of a growing movement of music being used as a tool to fight the inhumane treatment of immigrants in the United Stat
- Read ATJ visitation partner Conversation With Friends’ March newsletter.
- Read a harrowing blog post written by Eileen Sterlock, immigration lawyer and AILA family detention volunteer, about her experiences working as a volunteer attorney at the Karnes family detention center.
- BBC News spent a month in Tacoma, Washington following the stories of migrants and families affected by the Northwest Detention Center. Watch the video of BBC’s conversation with the family of Ramon Mendoza, leader of a hunger strike at the facility.
Webinar: Advocacy in ATJ – From the Local to the National
Wednesday, April 29th, 2:00-3:00 pm EDT
Presenters: Brittney Nystrom and Joanne Kelsey, LIRS Director and Assistant Director for Advocacy
Register HERE or email MDolamore@lirs.org
National ATJ Convening
Wednesday, May 6 – Saturday, May 9 in Chicago, IL
DTS & Community Support Networks
Conquering Compassion Fatigue Debrief Call
Wednesday, May 13th, 8:00-9:00pm EDT
Theme: Managing Expectations
For call-in information, email SHarrs@lirs.org