Bloggings On Political Asylum

by Jason Dzubow

CIVIC Works to Visit and Protect Detained Immigrants

CIVIC–Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement–is an organization that works to “end the isolation and abuse of men and women in U.S. immigration detention by building and strengthening volunteer-run community visitation programs.” The idea is that if ordinary people visit detained immigrants, the immigrants will feel more connected and more hopeful, and the detention facilities (many of which are run by private, for-profit corporations) will not be able to get away with abusing detainees. 

The protection aspect of CIVIC’s mission reminds me of Amnesty International, which calls attention to individuals at risk of abuse through letter writing campaigns. The hope is that if the abuser knows he is being watched, he is less likely to harm the victim. 

"Remember... Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies."

“Remember… Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Based on my experience with detained clients, it seems to me that CIVIC’s goals of offering hope and protection to detained immigrants are (unfortunately) very necessary. Many people in immigration detention have no criminal record and are not dangerous to the community. Some are minors. Others are asylum seekers who suffered persecution and torture in their home countries. These people remain detained for months and sometimes years. The emotional (and physical) toll of such detention can be quite devastating.

CIVIC is currently working to expand its visitation program, in accordance with ICE’s Visitation Directive, which was designed to help facilitate visits to detention facilities. In furtherance of this goal, CIVIC has released the following statement:

Every day, immigrants disappear and are detained by the U.S. government. For example, Ana is a human trafficking victim who was detained for over a year, locked in solitary confinement, and forced by a guard to sleep on the cement floor of her cell until CIVIC ended this isolation and abuse. Over 32,000 immigrants like Ana remain isolated in remote detention facilities today because no law protects a right to visitation, phone calls cost up to $5.00 per minute, and 46% of detained migrants are transferred at least twice during their detention–often out of state and away from their families.

CIVIC is changing this reality by building and strengthening community visitation programs that are dedicated to ending the isolation and abuse of men and women in immigration detention.  Visitation programs connect persons in civil immigration detention with community members. These volunteer visitors provide immigrants in detention with a link to the outside world, while also preventing human rights abuses by creating a community presence in otherwise invisible detention facilities.

CIVIC recently released A Guide to Touring U.S. Immigration Detention Facilities & Building Alliances, designed for communities across the country hoping to start a visitation program using ICE’s new Visitation Directive.  The benefit of this resource is that the general guidelines are tailored to the unique request of using the Visitation Directive as a tool to establish contact and set up a permanent visitation program. In addition, this manual provides an overview of some of the successes and roadblocks visitation programs have encountered in the first year of the Visitation Directive’s existence.

CIVIC is setting in motion a national movement to combat the isolating experience of immigration detention.  To get involved or for more information, please visit their website at

In some parts of the country–like the DC metro area–we have a well established visitation program (thank you CAIR Coalition). But in many areas, detained immigrants are much more isolated. For people looking for an interesting and rewarding volunteer experience, CIVIC’s program offers an excellent way to get involved and to help people who are in great need.

Originally posted on the Asylumist:

About The Author

Jason Dzubow's practice focuses on immigration law, asylum, and appellate litigation. Mr. Dzubow is admitted to practice law in the federal and state courts of Washington, DC and Maryland, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Third, Fourth, Eleventh, and DC Circuits, all Immigration Courts in the United States, and the Board of Immigration Appeals. He is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) and the Capital Area Immigrant Rights (CAIR) Coalition. In June 2009, CAIR Coalition honored Mr. Dzubow for his Outstanding Commitment to Defending the Rights and Dignity of Detained Immigrants.In December 2011, Washingtonian magazine recognized Dr. Dzubow as one of the best immigration lawyers in the Washington, DC area; in March 2011, he was listed as one of the top 25 legal minds in the country in the area of immigration law. Mr. Dzubow is also an adjunct professor of law at George Mason University in Virginia.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) alone and should not be imputed to ILW.COM.