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Getting Acquainted with the Program
Sunday, February 01, 2009

What does this Religious Services Program consist of?

The Religious Services Program provides pastoral care and other religious assistant to immigration detainees. Volunteers can make visits on weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis at the discretion and need of the chaplain. The process will begin with the chaplain matching volunteers with the needs of the RSP. Volunteers will agree to commit to visiting the detention facility and serving in the RSP for a certain number of times per month. The goal of the volunteer is to augment the chaplain’s ability to provide pastoral care and religious services. Volunteers will also provide detainees with some companionship and morale during their difficult time in detention.

What are the requirements of the Religious Services Program?

This RSP requires the volunteer to be committed and consistent in their visits to the detention facility. Often times, you may be one of a few individuals in a detainee’s life, so consistency is especially important for their morale. Persons without current immigration status should NOT visit detention facilities, since they could be apprehended and detained or deported themselves.

What will be the volunteer’s time commitment to the program?

Addressing this question will depend on what you decide for the structure of the program, the chaplain’s needs, and the frequency of the visits. Generally, you can assume that each visit will be about an hour (this amount of time may also depend on the particular facility). By estimating the time it takes to get to the facility, you will have a realistic idea of the time commitment of each visit.

What is expected of the volunteer in this program?

Volunteers are expected to be sensitive to the detained immigrants’ needs. Additionally, it is important to point out that volunteers should not proselytize in the detention facilities. Respecting the detained immigrant’s faith or lack thereof is crucial, as many of them have fled their countries due to religious persecution. Having said that, we also encourage the detained immigrant to talk about the ways his/her faith helps him/her cope with suffering and stress in a way that puts the needs of the individual in detention first. Therefore, any conversation on religion should be initiated by the detained immigrant and not the volunteer. Volunteers are also expected to communicate any issues or concerns to the program leaders. Common concerns might include not being able to make scheduled visits, dealing with or navigating the process of setting boundaries with the detained immigrant, etc.

What support should the volunteer expect to get from the program leaders?

The volunteer should expect to get consistent support from the program leaders. Program leaders will be in continuous communication with volunteers and will address any concerns that arise promptly. Program leaders will serve as the liaisons between the detention facilities and volunteers, so volunteers should expect to receive support regarding any issues that arise due to the visits at the detention facilities.

Volunteers are expected to be sensitive to the detained immigrants’ needs.

This material has been adapted from the Detention Watch Network’s Visiting Immigrants in U.S. Detention Facilities.