Visitor Volunteer Training in D.C. (Dec 3rd)

The D.C. Visitation Network will host a volunteer training for people who are interested in visiting people in immigration detention.  Join us on Wednesday,December 3. The training starts at 6:30 pm. We will gather at the offices of Human Rights First at 805 15th Street NW, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20005. If you have attended a training in the past, you do not need to come again. Please let us know if you would like to attend or if you have any questions.

President Obama’s Executive Action & Detention

In this week leading up to Thanksgiving, we give thanks that President Obama finally has kept his promise to address our broken immigration system.   The President’s announcement includes a general overview of individuals likely to benefit:

•    About 4.1 million of those expected to be eligible for the program are parents of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident (LPR) children, regardless of age or marital status of the child, who have resided in the U.S. since January 1, 2010. They are required to undergo background checks and pay taxes. The application process will begin in about 180 days.

•    Another 300,000 are individuals who were brought to the United States as children and have been raised as Americans but were too old to qualify for the 2011 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The program announced today removes the upper age limit for DACA eligibility and updates the required date of continuous residence to January 1, 2010. The application process will begin in about 90 days.

•    Individuals will be allowed to apply for three-year work permits, temporary protection from deportation, and advanced permission to travel abroad.

We also are excited to hear that the Secure Communities program will be ending!  S-Comm is a program in which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requests that local law enforcement agencies unconstitutionally hold individuals so the agency can decide whether to initiate removal proceedings. 

We lament the administration’s failure to address the continuing detention of the over 34,000 people in U.S. immigration detention each day.  We lament the administration’s failure to address the expansion of family immigration detention.  We lament the administration failure to address programs at the border, such as Operation Streamline, which charge and convict Mexican and Central American men and women each day and send them to private for-profit prisons to serve out a federal sentence for crossing the border before being put into civil immigration detention. 



Thursday, November 20, 2014


Christina Fialho, Co-Founder/Executive Director, Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC),, 385-212-4842 

On the 25th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, Groups Express Outrage Over Detention of Children and Families

Los Angeles, CALIFORNIA – As the world marks the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on November 20, the United States has embarked on the largest family detention program since Japanese Internment.  Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) expresses outrage over the detention of children on the International Detention Coalition’s Day of Action demanding an end to child detention.  

“Immigration detention is a one-size-fits-all ‘solution’ that locks up mothers, fathers, and children in unimaginable isolation,” said Christina Fialho, a California attorney and co-executive director of Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC).  “Imprisoning children and families is a human rights violation.”

Today, CIVIC is releasing “Drawings By Themselves: Portraits of America,” a multimedia project that provides children and their parents in U.S. immigration detention with an opportunity to share their experience through drawings and stories.  CIVIC produced the project in partnership with the International Detention Coalition, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and the Global Campaign to End Immigration Detention of Children.

“Drawings By Themselves: Portraits of America” tells a story about America today. Through their artwork, the children and parents express their humanity and claim the United States as their own, even as the Obama Administration continues to expand family detention in response to the recent arrival of Central American women and children asylum seekers fleeing violence in their home countries.

The administration’s decision to incarcerate women and children in family detention centers puts their mental and physical health in jeopardy, further exacerbating past traumas. Furthermore, the government is ignoring international standards outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which state that children should not be detained, and is failing to comply with the 1996 Flores settlement in the United States, which requires the Department of Homeland Security to “release a minor from its custody without unnecessary delay.”

“Detention Watch Network condemns family detention, and demands an end to this inhumane policy that puts women and children at risk,” said Silky Shah, Co-Director of the Detention Watch Network, a coalition of which CIVIC is a member. “Funds should be directed towards refugee resettlement services and legal resources to ensure due process for families and safe living environments for children.”

# # # # # 

Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit working to end the isolation and abuse of people in U.S. immigration detention through visitation, independent monitoring, storytelling, and advocacy.  “Drawings By Themselves: Portraits of America” will be launched at 6pm at the Church Center for the United Nations on November 20, 2014.  Available at

The Detention Watch Network works through the collective strength and diversity of its members to expose and challenge the injustices of the U.S. immigration detention and deportation system and advocate for profound change that promotes the rights and dignity of all persons.


Drawings By Themselves: Portraits of America

This week, we are celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  We will be releasing a project called Drawings By Themselves: Portraits of America, which provides children and parents in immigration detention with a platform to share their artwork and their stories.  The project will be launched at 6pm at the Church Center for the United Nations on November 20th, and it also will be available on-line.

Please watch the promotional video above and share it widely!  Many thanks to our project partners, the International Detention CoalitionLutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, and the Global Campaign to End Child Detention, as well as co-sponsors of our project:

Diamond Co-Sponsor: Friends~Amigos Fieles, Sacramento, CA Region
Sapphire Co-Sponsor: Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami’s Social Justice Committee 
Emerald Co-Sponsors: Alliance for Immigration Justice at First Parish Brewster

More coming soon…

Imprisoning Families for Profit

For general information about family detention, check out CIVIC’s one-pager.

By Lynnette Arnold

On Friday I went to visit my friend Alta Gracias and her three children at Karnes County Residential Center, where they have been locked up for the past two months. I was accompanied by a volunteer from the Hutto Visitation Program, a community group in Texas that has visited detained immigrants since 2009. We drove about three hours into Southern Texas, past oil derricks, cotton fields, and small, economically depressed towns. The Karnes facility, originally constructed as a model center for the detention of adult migrants, was repurposed this summer and began detaining families last month.

Drawing by Child in Detention

Upon arrival, I turned in my ID and was given a visitors badge. At the direction of the guards, I proceeded through a metal detector and two locked doors into the visitation room, taking nothing with me except quarters for the vending machine. The two older children, 10-year-old Ana and 9-year-old Victor (not their real names) were bouncing with excitement to see me. As soon as the door to the visitation room locked behind me, four small arms wrapped around me and two heads burrowed into my sides. When they finally let go, Alta Gracias’ hug felt no less desperate. As we sat down at a table to visit, Ana snuggled up close to me, my arm around her shoulders, until the visitation guard told me that the little girl needed to sit on her own chair. The desperation of the children’s need for comfort spoke volumes about the depth of their suffering during their dangerous journey north, in the week they spent sleeping on the floor in crowded and freezing holding cells at the border, and during two months of waiting, trapped at the detention center.

Alta Gracias and her children are being held for crossing the border without documentation, fleeing extreme violence in the coastal part of El Salvador they call home. While children who cross the border alone are quickly released to relatives or sponsors while they go through immigration hearings, children who come with their parents are locked up in family detention centers like Karnes, which holds 550 mothers with children as young as two months old.  Read the full and original publication of this article at Alas Migratorias, a blog about migration, cross-border connection, y otro mundo posible.


Stop Strip Searches for Visitors at CA Prisons!

The CA Dept of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) just proposed regulations mandating use of dogs, scanners, and traumatizing strip searches for people coming into a prison for a contact visit with a loved one.

CDCR does not contract with ICE; so, this will not apply to immigration detention facilities. However, CIVIC is concerned about the general trend in increased restrictions on visitors to any place of confinement.

We were told that the last day/time to submit comments was yesterday at 5pm, but advocates only found out about this new policy yesterday or today. You can still send a message that you oppose this policy. Click here for more information:

Corrections officials said the emergency regulations will take effect in mid-October, but they will then be subject to 160 days of public comment before they become permanent. Read more here: