The AIDNW Detention Center: a new perspective

Amina Khan, Editor-in-Chief of Print

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The Advocates for Immigrants in Detention Northwest (AIDNW) welcomes and helps people affected by immigration detention by connecting them to resources and the community. AIDNW has three main programs: The Welcome Center, Hospitality House/Post-Detention Accompaniment Network (PDAN) and Visitation. The AIDNW Welcome Center is located in an RV outside the release gate, providing a welcoming place for immigrants to experience their first moments of freedom. Staffed by trained volunteers, immigrants are provided many resources, some of which include: snacks and soft drinks, warm clothing as needed, backpacks to carry their documents and belongings, telephone access to call their family or friends, and assistance in arranging onward travel.

The Hospitality House is located in Tacoma and provides a place to stay, whether it be for a night or a month, for immigrants released from the NW Detention Center. The Post-Detention Accompaniment Network assists immigrants with transportation, filling out referral forms, and making sure there’s enough food and clean bedding. Lastly, my favorite program is the Visitation Program, where AIDNW volunteers have been visiting detainees at the Northwest Detention Center since 2013. Detainees can telephone AIDNW on a dedicated line to request a visitor to converse with. Visitors offer listening ears and help walk with the person in life, in an act of friendship to reduce the immigrant’s isolation.

One may wonder, how can a stranger help people in detention? Since the Detention Center holds people for months before they are either released or deported, many detainees come from far distances and do not have friends or family near enough to visit. Many worry for their families. In such stress, unpredictability, and precariousness, friendly visits from community members provide a sense of connection with the outside world, even if it’s for a little while. Most importantly, all these programs provide immigrants in detention with a heartfelt welcome by a community of people who reaffirm that they deserve to be treated with dignity.

Personally, I’ve served many roles for my school and city, but this one holds special significance for me: the detention center showed me a part of our society that many of us prefer to set aside. I know it’s easy to ignore, because most would want to go to shopping malls or historical museums in their free time, but the detention center has its own history. It’s a history of courage, ambition, desperation and hope. It’s as human as any other experience you can have here.

Want to learn more or help? Visit https://aidnw.org to get started. (There is also a fundraiser on Oct. 19.)

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