Sylvester Owino is Free!

We have Good News! Sylvester Owino was released under bond at approximately 1:00am this morning! As many of you know, Sylvester, a former international track-and-field competitor from Kenya, has been in detention for 9 years, the last year and a half of which were in the Etowah County Detention Facility in Gadsden, AL. He was returned to California and appeared before an immigration judge in San Diego, CA, on March 3, 2015.

Sylvester is so grateful to everyone who has supported him in any way. Thanks to all of you who signed the petition to advocate for his return to California for a bond hearing or donated to raise his bond. Thank you to all who wrote letters to the immigration court, stating their support and testifying to his good character. Thank you to our allies at the Detention Watch Network and Families for Freedom, and his amazing attorney James Fife. Thank you to his visitor volunteers, Kathy Smith of SOLACE and Katherine Weathers of the Etowah Visitation Program. Having a strong support team in place was crucial to the judge’s decision to grant his petition for bond!

Visitation in Minnesota Expanding!

Conversations With Friends Expands Support of Detained Immigrants

Conversations With Friends (CWF), a visitation program in Minnesota, led its first visit team into the Ramsey County Jail for in-person visits with immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on March 27, 2011.  With the beginning of the New Year, CWF is now an independent Minnesota non-profit corporation that has expanded the services it offers detained immigrants and their families.  Additional services include letter writing, small grants to commissary and phone accounts, and special visits coordinated with attorneys. 
CWF is also inviting faith communities to support the program and detained immigrants as Prayer Partners and is giving gas cards to non-detained immigrants in removal proceedings, especially the “border children and families” fleeing violence in their home countries for asylum in the United States. 
CWF’s primary goal remains supporting detained immigrants with visits and compassionate conversations. CWF is “interfaith” and “no faith” – there is no faith requirement to either be a visitor or to be visited: visitors are to respect the faith of those they visit.  
CWF volunteers attend classes to learn about the United States immigrant detention system, the policies that have criminalized immigrants, how to do a visit, the importance of proper boundaries, and the need to respect the personal integrity and privacy of all they meet (including ICE agents, corrections officers, and other law enforcement).  Visitors complete a form that is given to the County Sheriff for a background check.  
CWF also is working on expanding visitation to other immigration detention facilities in the state. For more information: CWF Lead, Rev. John Guttermann,,  651 485-3104.  Rev. Guttermann is a Covenant Minister at the United Church of Christ in New Brighton and the Voluntary Liaison to Faith Communities for The Advocates for Human Rights.  

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.”

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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.