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Role of the Volunteer
Monday, February 02, 2009

Volunteers provide an important means of support for detained immigrants who often do not have friends or family nearby. Their role is one of friendship, goodwill, and concern for the detained individual's welfare. The visitor-detained immigrant relationship is uniquely rewarding for both parties.

As a volunteer, your visits will provide:

  • A boost to morale
  • Friendship and a smiling face
  • A time when the individual in detention can put their worries aside and just chat with someone
  • An important source of hope for a detained immigrant
  • The opportunity to help individuals in detention with their English language skills
  • A chance for asylum seekers who were detained at a port of entry to learn more about the United States than within the walls of the detention center or jail or what they see on TV
  • An opportunity for you, the volunteer, to learn more about the person you visit, their story, and the legal and administrative processes that asylum seekers and other immigrants face in the United States

As a volunteer, you are:

  • NOT a lawyer to help someone figure out how to get out of detention or file a claim
  • NOT a mental health professional to assess and treat symptoms of mental illness
  • NOT a social worker
  • NOT a missionary or pastor trying to convert detained immigrants
  • NOT a source of financial support for the detained immigrant or their friends and family

Nevertheless, helping detained immigrants contact organizations that can provide legal, medical, or psychological assistance is very appropriate and helpful for a detained immigrant. Contact your group leader for assistance.

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