Reverend John Guttermann started Conversations With Friends with a simple vision: to provide a compassionate witness to the humanity of those detained in immigration custody. CWF visitors have been visiting detained immigrants at the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center (ADC) since March 2011 and at the Freeborn County ADC since October 2015.
Today dozens of trained volunteers visit and correspond with people detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Minnesota.
This mission was born of an understanding of the fundamental injustice of the immigration detention system, which today holds more than 30,000 people every single day in hundreds of jails and prisons around the United States.
They share stories. They joke. Sometimes they even sing.
Visitors aren’t there to proselytize. The program welcomes visitors of all faiths and of no faith who seek to engage in conversation and share in an hour of human interaction.
They’re not there to provide legal advice or counselling either. People with professional backgrounds are welcome to participate, but they “check their license at the door” and enter simply as compassionate visitors.
It’s a small step toward ending the isolation faced by people awaiting deportation hearings or facing removal from the United States.