Regarding the approximately 11 million people in the U.S. who do not have regular immigration status (aka “undocumented”), it’s fairly straightforward

If you need one example of the injustice of the U.S. immigration system, you need to look no further than with “H.” He is 45-years-old, born in Mexico, has lived in the U.S. for twenty years, currently lives in Minnesota, speaks Spanish and English fluently, works in construction, is married and has a 4 ½-year-old daughter. They are a family and have deep roots in their community.

If “H” is deported, what will mom say to their daughter when she asks why dad is never home and asks, “Doesn’t he love me anymore?” To cope, will they need therapy and other social services? Could “H” receive those services back in Mexico? If he’s deported, may his wife and daughter face eviction?

Some may say that he committed a crime and must pay the consequences. Well, he did. He served his sentence, was set to be paroled, then ICE picked him up. Some may say that “H” should never have come to the U.S. without documents in the first place. My response is: “If we didn’t want him here, he shouldn’t have been hired and been allowed to work here for twenty years.”

Deportation would be cruel and unusual emotional torture. Families are sacred units and should not and must not be separated! If people have established deep roots in the U.S., they should be permitted to stay if they want to.

Steve Kraemer, CWF Exec. Director

From the 8/15/22 CWF Newsletter

The Toughest Part is the Waiting

We’re all familiar with the injustice of being imprisoned by ICE: separation from family and friends; treated like a criminal, though as an ICE detainee they are being held to ensure attendance at their immigration hearing, not for a crime; no opportunities to go outside and get fresh air at Freeborn or Sherburne; housed with U.S. citizens, some of whom have been charged with committing serious crimes; jail food; no, or very slow, response to medical concerns.

Despite all of the above, some say that the toughest part is the waiting. For example, many, many people receive deportation orders from the immigration judge. As traumatic as that is, a person may ultimately begin to mentally plan for the impending deportation and begin to consider how they will survive in their birth country, where they may ultimately go to live, what they will do for employment, etc. So, they become as mentally prepared as they might become. But, if they’re from Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan or other East African countries, it may be a very long time before their deportation flight, often six months or more of waiting. Though much closer, even for people from Central or South America it could be months. All this time they’re suffering under the previously mentioned injustices. Further adding to their frustration is the fact that they often try to contact their deportation officer for an update and are unable to get one. Or they attempt to contact their lawyer and don’t receive a response.

And then there are cases when someone is granted temporary relief from deportation but has to wait months before his/her release. Recently a gentleman in Kandiyohi was granted ‘Deferral of Removal under the Convention Against Torture (CAT)’. (Click here for more info. about CAT.) As such, he was able to show that it was more likely than not that he would be tortured if he were ordered removed to Eritrea. After receiving his positive CAT decision, he wasn’t released that day, the next or that week. Rather, ICE has 90 days during which they can attempt to deport him to another country, though it’s quite unlikely they’ll find one. At the end of that 90 days, if they demonstrate a possibility of finding a country, ICE can be granted another 90 days to try. In his case, thankfully, ICE didn’t request a second 90 days, but, as it was, he wasn’t told that he was going to be released until the 90th day of the 90-day period. Given it was a Sunday, he was released on Monday, the 91st day.

So, what can be worse than the trauma caused by ICE imprisonment? Not knowing how long the imprisonment will last.

Steve Kraemer, CWF Exec. Director

From the 5/15/22 CWF Newsletter

The Importance of Being Affirmed

When one of our immigrant friends in a letter or during one of our Zoom visits notes, “I’m not going to see my wife and kids. I’m going to be completely separated from my loved ones. This is so cruel,” we’re able to say, “Yes, you’re right, it’s cruel. Deportation from home, family and community should not be an acceptable, allowable form of punishment. It is shameful and wrong.”

When someone says, “I won my immigration case, but I’m stuck in jail because the government appealed. That’s so unjust,” we’re able to say, “Yes, it is unjust and inhumane. You should be able to return to your home and family rather than remain jailed for another six months or so while the government’s appeal is decided by the BIA (Board of Immigration Appeals).”

When someone says, “Why can’t I bond out? I served my criminal sentence. Then, I was just about to be released on probation but ICE took me into custody. When I went to my immigration hearing I was told that I don’t qualify for bond because I’m a danger to the community and a flight risk. But I was freed on probation after my crime, so that court determined I’m not a danger or a flight risk. Why does the immigration judge think I am? It makes no sense.” We can say “You’re right. It makes absolutely no sense.”

People jailed by ICE, who are trying to navigate a complex, inhumane immigration system, need to be affirmed. They need to know that we see their humanity and hear their pain. They need to know that we agree that they’re being treated unjustly and inhumanely, and that we truly care about them.


Steve Kraemer, CWF Exec. Director, 1/15/22

From the 1/15/22 CWF Newsletter

Thankful that we provide various forms of support, various gifts, we also recognize the many gifts that we, CWF letter writers and visitors, receive through our accompaniment

During a recent visit, the gentlemen spontaneously expressed profound thanks to CWF for gifts they have received from us. It was quite overwhelming to hear: 

– “You are people with heart that listen to us.”

– “You provide clothing if needed for our [deportation] trip.”

– “You are a blessing!”

– “We thank you so much for your time and the resources that you put together to be able to help us. Such an enormous blessing and we thank you so much.”

– “God bless you guys and bless your families.”

– “Thank you Lord Jesus for your immense heart and beautiful heart and big heart. You are special peoples. You care for hungry peoples, for immigration peoples. You’re Americans and have big hearts.”

– “You gift us with this time, so valuable.”

– “We feel happy because we can converse. We have found new friends. This is a great blessing.”

– “I want to thank you all for the birthday cards you sent for my birthday. Many, many thanks to all who sent cards for my birthday!”

– “You listen to us. I feel more calm because I don’t have family here. And the first thing my family said was to judge me. You all don’t judge me. You don’t ask about the problems we had. You have other conversations with stories, very great distractions. Upon leaving here, many people will judge us.”

– “This time together cheers us up, relaxes us, is therapy for us.”

– “[During CWF visits] We don’t think about the jail. We think of other things. We enter another world, e.g. of the donkeys and monkeys (story by Ed) and a dog that rescues people (joke by Steve). We live in a different place in this moment.” 

– “I am very thankful for everyone at CWF to help me and everyone else go through this not alone.”.

– “I just want to really say that I’m very grateful for all of you loving and caring people of CWF to take the time and effort out of your busy day and time away from your families to write us, as in ICE people, every week.”

– “…thank you for all the letters that you send me with those lovely messages that fill me with encouragement to help me continue here….So how your messages fill me with dreams and hopes.” 

– “We want to write to you to thank you for your help, support, collaboration and friendship for/with us. God puts angels in our difficult moments and you all show your love. A Christmas greeting and prosperous 2022 to you all.” (from a 12/15/21 email to CWF).

Note, though, that this is not a one-sided relationship where one person is the giver and the other is the receiver. 

We CWF volunteers receive from those with whom we have the honor and distinct privilege of writing and visiting. The gifts we receive are opportunities:

– to come to realize that people jailed by ICE are not “the other” but rather unique, vulnerable human beings like us;

– to affirm others, acknowledging the injustice of our immigration system and the pain and suffering and emotional trauma of awaiting and/or being deported;

– to be that person who figuratively puts a hand on someone’s shoulder, letting them know that members of the community care about their health and safety, something that is so very important, especially for people who have no one;

– to witness the intense faith of many people who feel God has a plan for them and will accompany them on an uncertain journey;

– to practice our faith and serve others with compassion and love and, in so doing, serve our God;

– to be warmly welcomed/accepted as visitors and letter writers into their space;

– to personally learn of the injustice and indecency of our immigration system that jails people who have usually already served their criminal sentence and accepts deportation and the resulting family separation/destruction as an allowable form of punishment;

– to advocate on their behalf, e.g. by calling senators, congresspeople, family, friends and others, educating them about the struggles and realities of those detained based on our first-hand, personal knowledge;

– to get a sense of our own privilege by witnessing the pain that others are experiencing;

– to be enlightened, as we are after reading “S”’s letter, by other people’s perspectives;

– to learn about our pen pals’ birth countries, e.g. favorite foods, important holidays, current conditions, and as a result create a stronger connection;

– to express our own hearts, after receiving letters in which our friends express theirs, and have an authentic relationship.

Our relationships are often mutual relationships, both sides giving, both sides receiving. How wonderful we can celebrate these relationships, especially during the holidays of Christmas (12/25), Hanukkah (11/28 – 12/6) and Kwanzaa (12/26 – 1/1)! 

A Merry and Blessed season to all!

Most sincerely,


Steve Kraemer, CWF Exec. Director, 12/15/21

From the 12-15-21 CWF Newsletter

Why Do Some Immigrants Spend So Long in ICE Custody?

By Kathy Moccio, Binger Center for New Americans, U of MN Law School

The immigration court process to deport non-citizens, including lawful permanent residents, is complex and lengthy. It often starts with ICE arresting a person and placing the person in jail. ICE then prepares a Notice to Appear (NTA) that is filed with the Immigration Court. Once the NTA is filed with the court, immigration proceedings commence. The immigration courts are backlogged, and it can take time – several months – for a detained case to obtain a full hearing. At the conclusion of the individual hearing, the immigration judge (IJ) issues a decision that can be appealed to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) by either the government or the detainee, depending on the decision. The BIA is backlogged, and it can take months, often six or more, for the BIA to prepare transcripts, issue briefing schedules, and decide the case. It is not uncommon for a noncitizen who’s been detained for a year to get a decision from the BIA that remands the case, e.g. the IJ failed to apply the correct law or failed to rule on a particular issue, back to the immigration court for the IJ to conduct another hearing. At the conclusion of that hearing, the IJ will make a decision and that decision can be appealed to the BIA. The remand and appeal can take a year or more. Once the BIA issues a final order of removal, a noncitizen may ask the BIA to reconsider the case and/or appeal the case to the Federal Court of Appeals. Sometimes the Federal Court of Appeals will issue a stay of removal – an order that prohibits ICE from deporting the person – while the appeal is pending. Again, it can take months for the Federal Court of Appeals to schedule a case and issue a decision. It is not uncommon at this point to see non-citizen detainees who have been in ICE custody for three years or more.

Even when a person stops fighting their deportation case, she can remain stuck in jail in ICE custody. Sometimes, immigration cannot get a travel document to deport the person or there is no flight scheduled. Folks who remain in ICE custody waiting to be deported often talk about the extreme anguish and stress they experience.

The extremely long periods of time non-citizens are spending in immigration custody has spurred federal habeas corpus litigation to the federal district courts challenging the constitutionality of prolonged immigration detention. While many of the cases have been successful, habeas cases take time – again months – to decide and the person remains in ICE custody until ordered released.

If you are interested in advocating to end immigration detention, the Detention Watch Network at: provides a number of ways to take action.

From the 9-15-21 Conversations with Friends newsletter