Fidel, an immigrant jailed at the Golden State Annex in California, says he’s overjoyed at the recent news that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will again allow loved ones to visit people in federal immigration detention. Visitation had been blocked due to pandemic concerns. But while federal prisons had resumed visitations in October 2020, it hadn’t happened in ICE facilities.
But earlier this month, after months of pressure from advocates, officials said they would finally begin to resume visits. “I’m overwhelmed with joy to finally be able to see my daughter and actually interact with my family,” Fidel said in a video shared to Twitter.
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As previously noted, the inability to see children, spouses, and other loved ones has only prolonged suffering in immigration detention. “We feel depressed, overwhelmed with the situation that we are in here in detention,” Fidel continued in the video shared by the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice.
He thanks the work of advocates who have been pressuring ICE on the outside as part of a #ReinstateVisitation campaign. Featured in the video are Fidel’s mom, sister, nephew, and friend:
ICE’s statement said that officials have “initiated an updated phased return” to visitation, meaning that advocates will need to remain vigilant and ensure that officials actually follow through. Indeed, advocacy organizations like El Refugio and Freedom for Immigrants noted they are waiting for more information and guidance on the phased return.
“El Refugio will resume services that have been on hold since the pandemic began: free overnight lodging on weekends to visiting families and, when possible, social visits to people at [Georgia’s Stewart Detention Center] who wish to make a meaningful connection with a volunteer,” El Refugio said in a statement.
The group has also assisted detained people with legal referrals, commissary deposits, and even just with pen-pals. “Visitation breaks down some of the isolation people endure while detained,” Executive Director Amilcar Valencia said in a video. “Visitation is also a tool human rights organizations use to monitor human rights abuses in these facilities.”
“While we figure out the details, I want to affirm our long vision for our work,” he continued in the video. “We envision a world without detention. We all know detention is inhumane and unnecessary. We need to end it.”
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