CIVIC is Protecting the Right to Visit & Speak Out Against Detention

Today, CIVIC with the support of the ACLU Foundation of Southern California, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and the pro bono support of the law firm Sidley Austin LLP sent two letters requesting that ICE stop retaliating against visitors who publicly criticize the U.S. immigration detention system.  Specifically, we are asking ICE to clarify its nationwide policies to reflect that visitors cannot be denied access in retaliation for exercising their First Amendment rights, such as by exposing abuse in facilities, speaking out against the system, or participating in protests outside the facility.

Today, we are honored to have the support of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who is standing with us behind the Etowah Visitation Project (EVP).  EVP was recently informed by the Etowah County Sheriff’s Department that their visitation program has been terminated.

Here is the letter and press release that CIVIC and the Southern Poverty Law Center sent to the Etowah County Sheriff’s Department, DHS, and press today, demanding the reinstatement of EVP.

The Etowah County Sheriff’s Department has given us no information as to why this action was taken.  We believe it is in retaliation for a complaint CIVIC filed, with full support from EVP, regarding abuses that have been ongoing against people detained by ICE at the Etowah County Detention Center.  

Also, the ACLU Foundation of Southern California and the law firm Sidley Austin sent a separate letter and press release today outlining how CIVIC’s Co-Executive Director Christina Fialho has been denied attorney visits at the Adelanto Detention Center after attending peaceful vigils there.  

A huge thanks to the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Sidley Austin who believe visitors have the right to exercise their First Amendment rights to free speech and peaceful assembly without having to fear retaliation from ICE or its contractors. 

We ask all of you to hold the men detained at Etowah and people detained all over the country in your hearts, as any attack against us as advocates is only an extension of a much more serious attack and attempt to isolate people in detention.

Check out recent articles on this issue:

Think Progress, the Associated Press, Victor Valley Daily Press, Gadsden Times, and La Opinion, and Alabama Public Radio.  Stay tuned for upcoming articles and watch us on CNN en Español (upcoming).

“Free Adelanto 4” Announces Successful Release of Carlos Hidalgo

For Immediate Release
July 13, 2015
Contacts: Olga Tomchin, olga@ndlon.org, 402.650.2339 // Christina Fialho (for interviews with Carlos Hidalgo), cfialho@endisolation.org, 385.212.4842

“Free Adelanto 4” Announces Successful Release of Carlos Hidalgo, Pledges Continued Fight Against Detention of People with Disabilities & Vulnerable Groups

Campaign Continues for Vulnerable Individuals Still Detained at Adelanto, Calls to Prevent Transfer of Transgender Women

Santa Ana, CA—One week after the launch of the campaign, Adelanto 4 member and human rights advocate Carlos Hidalgo (A#092-952-155) was released from the Theo Lacy detention center in Orange County, CA where he had been transferred by ICE as retaliation for his advocacy on behalf of individuals with disabilities and asylum seekers detained at the for-profit Adelanto detention center.

Mr. Hidalgo, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, was targeted for helping people file grievances for medical abuse and alerting them of their rights. In response, ICE threw him into solitary confinement for over 3 days and then transferred him to a different detention facility because “GEO Group doesn’t want you here.”

On three occasions and under increasingly mysterious circumstances, ICE prevented Mr. Hidalgo from having a court hearing, resulting in him missing his U.S. citizen daughter Lovette’s high school graduation. Today, Carlos has been reunited with her, his other two U.S. citizen children, and his parents and grandchild. He can now also continue receiving treatment for his multiple sclerosis.

Upon his release, Carlos Hidalgo made the following statement:

“Thank you to everyone who signed the Adelanto 4 petition and to all who are supporting our cause. Because of you, I am now reunited with my beloved family! I’ve been given the chance to continue this fight from the outside and help all those who are still in detention. I have the moral obligation to help those still in need that are living under this unjust deportation and immigration detention system that is affecting so many of us immigrants. With your help, I promise to continue this fight to the end immigration detention and help all of my brothers and sisters who are still being detained.

“Regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, we are all human beings who deserve to be able to pursue happiness and live our dreams. The tears of the detained must not be in vain. For-profit prison companies such as GEO Group need to be held accountable for their actions and must not be allowed to abuse people with disabilities and transgender people. I personally witnessed the total lack of proper medical care for those with mental health issues and dialysis patients. Let’s keep up the fight and be heard with dignity and respect!”

The “Free Adelanto 4” campaign continues for the remaining Adelanto 3 and others with disabilities and asylum seekers and has called on ICE to stop the transfer of transgender women to the abusive facility.

Undocumented trans woman activist Jennicet Gutiérrez who made headlines recently for demanding to President Obama that he stop the abuse of trans women by ICE added,

“Trans women in detention centers should not be transferred to Adelanto because the abuse won’t stop with the transfer. Adelanto is a remote location where it would be more difficult for our sisters to get our support and legal representation.”

GEO Group, the infamous for-profit prison company which runs Adelanto, is currently being sued by current and former detained immigrants for violating the Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The lawsuit alleges that GEO is subjecting immigrant detainees to forced labor under threat of solitary confinement, which is recognized as torture by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.

Additionally, the Free Adelanto campaign has launched a fundraiser for the bond of Adelanto 4 member Victor Calderon (A# 206-412-111). He is a 32 year old father of three U.S. citizen children and the son and caretaker of a disabled green card holder mother. Victor has lived in the United States since he was 6.

The petition for the remaining Adelanto 3 can be found here: http://action.ndlon.org/c/1509/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=20786

VICTORY: After a Month of Resistance, Kwesi Amuzu has been Released

May 27, 2015 – We resisted and won! After a month of campaigning, ICE SF Field Office has decided to release Kwesi Amuzu, a Ghanaian asylum-seeker, who was held in indefinite detention for over a year despite having a removal order that was unable to be carried out. We first met Kwesi at the West County Detention Facility through our visitation program. He was transferred to the Mesa Verde Detention Facility, but our growing network of visitor volunteers was able to support him and continue to visit him at this new California facility. CIVIC sounded the alarm about his indefinite detention and engaged a multi-racial network of undocumented youth, faith leaders, immigrant rights organizations, and community members to pressure ICE for Kwesi’s release.

A vigil and protest was scheduled outside of the Mesa Verde facility on May 30th with the purpose of calling for Kwesi’s release. Kwesi was released on May 26, 2015. He is now living with a CIVIC visitor volunteer. He was able to join us outside of the detention facility on May 30th with hundreds of people calling for the release of all people from immigration detention.

Listen to Kwesi here:

Community Group Expanding their Outreach to Immigrants at Krome

Volunteers from Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees (FOMDD) have made over 800 visits and received thousands of calls through a hotline system to provide a free connection to the outside world for people in immigration detention at the Krome Service Processing Center; this year, they are looking to engage more members of the community!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – 5/26/2015
CONTACT: Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees
Email: friendsofmddetainees@gmail.com;
Phone: 786-766-8659

Community Group Expanding their Outreach to Krome Detainees

Miami, FL. Every week, volunteers from Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees (FOMDD) take the long ride out west to the Krome Service Processing Center (better known as the Krome Detention Center) to spend time with some of the hundreds of immigrants confined there. The visitors, coming from diverse backgrounds and communities throughout South Florida, are hoping to expand the program this year by increasing visits and phone communication.

While some faith groups perform services at Krome, FOMDD is the only organization whose members simply go listen to the men detained there. They have made over 800 visits since the program’s inception in 2014. The visitations are sponsored by the Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of Miami and affiliated with Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants In Confinement (CIVIC), a national advocacy organization for people in immigration detention and visitor volunteers.

“The idea of these programs is to end the isolation of people in immigration detention through community visitation,” states Christina Fialho, co-founder and Executive Director of CIVIC. “Friends of Miami-Dade Detainees is offering a much-needed connection to the outside world for people detained at Krome.”

FOMDD is trying to bring humane relief to a vulnerable population that is experiencing the consequences of a broader problem. The United States maintains the largest immigration detention infrastructure in the world: its detention system holds hundreds of thousands of immigrants every year, some of them for long periods of time. Without a right to a free attorney or phone calls home, people have little connection to the outside to share their experience, connect with their families or report possible abuses.

The FOMDD program offers two types of volunteering opportunities: people can become hotline advocates or visitor volunteers at the Krome Detention Center. Answering the hotline is a very flexible way to help; it can be done from home according to your schedule.

Members of FOMDD volunteer for many reasons. According to Bud Conlin of Key Largo, coordinator of the group, “We visit to let the men in confinement know they are not alone, that people outside know and care about them. We work to end their isolation and inform the community of their situation.” Linda Guerrera of Port St. Lucie is thankful for the opportunity “to show people kindness, humanity and love in a time during their lives when they find themselves in a veritable emotional desert.”

Lidia Moore of Miami, one of the earliest visitors, has seen that “locking people up because they are immigrants is destroying lives and families.” “Some of the detainees have no relatives near here,” says Barbara Woshinsky of Miami, “or else they don’t want their mothers, wives or children to see them from behind a glass wall, where they can’t touch them. Listening to their stories can be draining, but the men are so grateful. It is very humbling.”

For Bill Turner of Miami, it is a question of justice. “People are being criminalized and incarcerated, losing their civil and human rights.” He wants the detainees to know that he is sympathetic to their situation and supports our immigration policies being changed.

Every week, the visitors hear gripping stories (names and identifying details have been changed to preserve privacy). Carlos, an electrician from Colombia, wound up in Krome after a wrongful arrest. Released on bail, he was brought back there two years later. He has lived in this country for 20 years and has a wife and two children who are citizens. He is appealing his deportation decree.

Occasionally there is a happy outcome. Hamid, a Middle Eastern asylum seeker, was released recently from Krome detention. He had seen nothing of America outside its detention centers since he was arrested at the border 15 months ago. He has a daughter back home who was born after he fled his country.

The FOMDD program has come a long way in a few short years. “It was a challenge getting permission to visit,” says Conlin. “With the help of (the national visitation program) CIVIC, in 2013 we were able to file a formal application to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).”

In a letter supporting its application to ICE, former Florida Congressman Joe Garcia wrote: “This group of dedicated individuals desires to end the isolation of those being held in immigration confinement. It is my hope that this initiative will bring aid and comfort to those in detention while work continues on immigration reform.”

The FOMDD proposal was formally accepted in August 2013, but volunteers did not receive permission to visit until February 2014. Two months later, with the support of Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church of Texas, FOMDD started a telephone hotline that has reached thousands of detainees, some of whom cannot afford the 12 cents per minute it costs for a local call.

To receive more information about FOMDD or to join their Visitor or Hotline Advocate programs, please visit their website at http://www.endisolation.org/friendsofmiami-dadedetainees/

Like them on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/FriendsofMDDetainees

Or contact them by Email at friendsofmddetainees@gmail.com

ACLU, CIVIC, & Others: ICE Stop Expanding Adelanto

Today, we filed a letter with ICE, CRCL, and OIG calling for a stop to the Adelanto Detention expansion and an investigation into the chronic medical problems at this GEO-run facility. Read it here:

Posted by Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) on Friday, May 15, 2015