prisonCommunity Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) — the national immigration detention visitation network — believes that ending the isolation of people in immigration detention starts with being a good listener. CIVIC teamed up with Jesuit Refugee Service/USA (JRS/USA), a longstanding partner of the U.S. visitation movement, to create two training videos: one on how to be a good listener and the other on how to recruit volunteers to the immigration detention visitation movement.


“For decades, there has been widespread and genuine ignorance of the U.S. government’s practice of detaining asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking, and other immigrants with longstanding community ties,” said Christina Fialho, co-executive director of CIVIC. “But if each visitor volunteer could recruit just one more person to the movement, our immigration detention facilities would no longer be invisible to the community.”


The videos draw on the experience of three detention visitation groups: Conversations with FriendsFriends of Orange County Detainees, and the Hutto Visitation ProgramThe video on listening skills explains for visitor volunteers the qualities of a good listener and offers practical tips for listening and visiting people in detention. The volunteer recruitment and screening video reviews how visitation groups have recruited their volunteers through word of mouth, networking, social media and Spanish language media. Then, it discusses how different groups use their orientations, applications, background checks, and other methods to vet their volunteers.  CIVIC and JRS hope that faith communities across the country can use these videos to help grow the visitation movement.


“Accompaniment is the defining element of JRS/USA’s mission,” said Sean Kelly of JRS/USA. “The accompaniment provided by CIVIC’s network of visitation groups offers people in detention a sign of hope during a very challenging, uncertain, and stressful time.”

More information on how to start a visitation program or get involved with the U.S. immigration detention visitation movement, can be found here:   Christina Fialho is the co-founder and fulltime co-executive director of CIVIC, an attorney in California, a 2012 Echoing Green Fellow, and a Steering Committee Member of the Detention Watch Network. Christina has witnessed the transformative effects of visitation, and while there are CIVIC-affiliated programs at 24 detention facilities in 13 states, Christina hopes to one day see an end to the isolating practice of immigration detention.  You can find CIVIC on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube , and via their website You also can contact her at     We’re always looking for new guest bloggers; please check out our Guest Blog Submission Guidelines if you’re interested.

2 Responses to Training Volunteers for Immigration Detention Programs

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