Updates on our visits

Since October 2015, we have been visiting, in a group of about six CWF volunteers, the men in immigration detention at the Freeborn County Jail in Albert Lea, MN, two Sunday nights each month in a large classroom setting. The men are originally from Mexico, Central America, Somalia, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Sudan, Colombia, Ecuador, Vietnam, Burma and other countries.

Since March 2011, we have been visiting people in ICE detention at the Ramsey County Jail in St Paul on the second and fourth Sunday evenings of every month. Ramsey County just recently announced that effective January 1st, 2018, the Ramsey County Jail will no longer be housing ICE inmates. This is especially good news for ICE detainees since there are no windows, no opportunities for fresh air, and no exercise facilities there.

Nonetheless, the number of people in ICE detention continues to grow in Minnesota. Increased detention capacity in the area means that hundreds of men and women await removal hearings or deportation from the United States in isolation. Conversations with Friends’ visitors and letter writers make a difference.

Read more by our colleagues at CIVIC (Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement), who describe the CWF visit program at the Freeborn County Jail. The link also includes beautiful tributes to  Rev. John Guttermann who started CWF in 2010 and died on December 29, 2016.

Goodbye to our friend

Conversations With Friends mourns the loss of Rev. John Guttermann. John died peacefully on December 29, 2016. Survived by his wife Dawn, John leaves a legacy of social justice activism. He founded Conversations With Friends and worked tirelessly for just and humane immigration policy.

Funeral Service will be on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2016 at United Church of Christ, 1000 Long Lake Rd, New Brighton, MN at 3pm, with visitation one hour prior. Visitation time will also be held on Friday, Jan. 6, 2016 from 5-8 PM, at Miller Funeral Home, 6210 Hwy 65 NE, Fridley, MN. Miller Funeral Home 763-571-1300.john_gutterman

A call to compassion

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.