Sanctuary Diocese Task Force Invites Support for Immigrants in Detention

from the Sanctuary Diocese Task Force:

Immigrants face intolerable conditions in detention centers. Although very few have criminal records, detained immigrants are not afforded the same rights as inmates. Detention centers do not provide educational or recreational activities; nor are there adequate supplies for hygiene such as hand soap or face masks, critical items during the pandemic. Food items are mass produced and nearly indigestible. Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, ICE has continued its practice of transferring immigrants across the country to various detention centers. Prior to the pandemic, this made visitation extremely difficult. Now, as a COVID-19 preventative measure, ICE has suspended all visitation other than phone calls and written correspondence. Detained immigrants who call family members pay exorbitant fees for telephone use. In order to obtain bath soap, face masks, edible food, and call family members, detained immigrants must charge their commissary funds. Families’ financial circumstances limit their ability to provide sufficient funds for their detained family members.

The Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants (ICDI) has developed a number of ministries to support immigrants in detention centers. ICDI came into existence as the result of the efforts of Sister Pat and Sister Jo Ann of the Sisters of Mercy who were turned away when they attempted to visit immigrants in detention centers. They worked with the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) who organized support for the passage of a state law that gave detainees the right to have pastoral visits. Now, ICDI’s programs include a Visitation Program that during the pandemic includes writing letters to detained immigrants; virtual visitations; dropping off holy cards and copies of the Bible and the Koran to immigrants detained in the Combs Detention Center in Kankakee, the McHenry County Detention Center and the Dodge County, Wisconsin Detention Center. Contributions to a pass-through Commissary Fund enables ICDI to deposit $10 into commissary accounts of individuals as their accounts become depleted to cover basic daily needs. The visitation program keeps people in detention connected with humanity. It is a way that we can confront the militarized pressure of ICE. Working with ICDI, we are helping to humanize immigrants.

Volunteers are needed to write letters to detained immigrants. Please contact Judith Tribbett by phone (312.951.5581) or email with the subject line: ICDI letters. 

Contributions are needed for the IDCI Commissary Fund. Use the online form to donate and write “Commissary” in the comment field. For more information, please contact the Rev. Sandra Castillo by phone (773.899.3579) or email.