Friendship, practical support and advocacy for asylum seekers and other vulnerable immigrants held in immigration detention and post-release.
People fleeing persecution in their home countries who request asylum at a U.S. port of entry are arrested, handcuffed and confined to immigration detention — a traumatic experience that adds to their suffering. In New York, for 21 years Sojourners volunteers have been reaching out in friendship with regular visits to the most isolated of immigration detainees — those who have no friends or family in the area who can visit them.
Following the admonitions of Matthew 24: 31-40 to “welcome the stranger,” Sojourners’ mission remains to befriend and supporter immigrants held in detention under horrific conditions in for-profit and county immigrant detention centers as they await their decision on asylee status; to mentor those who are granted asylum and any released on bond, to maintain contact with and provide assistance to individuals with whom Sojourners has worked in detention and who have been unjustly deported back to dangerous living conditions; to sponsor vetted refugees in some capacity, as through the Welcome USA program of the US State Department; to work with and provide financial support to local immigrant and asylum organizations assisting immigrants; and to educate the church and community on the injustices perpetrated by a broken national immigration system.
In non-Covid-19 years, Sojourners sent a team of volunteers two Saturdays each month to visit detainees, providing hope, solidarity, and a link to the outside world. Since the pandemic shutdown, volunteers have continued to support immigrant detainees in Elizabeth Detention Center, as well as at Hudson County and Essex County Correctional Institute. Volunteers write letters as pen pals, send commissary funds so these friends can purchase soap and bare necessities or call family, raise money for bail bond release and provide letters of support for such applications, coordinate with attorneys working on detainee cases, and work with national groups such as Freedom for Immigrants to advocate for the end of immigrant detention. For those who have achieved asylum status, but who have lost their jobs or are ineligible for unemployment insurance, Sojourners provides rent assistance and connects them with food pantries/soup kitchens and other services and social support, helps with fees for training and professional licensing, and collects funds for their struggling families back in their home countries.
We welcome volunteers from Riverside and across the city seeking a chance to address the needs of new
refugees and asylum seekers by serving as mentors, financial sponsors, providers of temporary housing, and advocates. We work with ongoing programs, organizations and churches active in both answering to the immediate basic needs for supplies, shelter, food and employment of immigrants, as well as those seeking to make the current broken federal approach to immigration more just.