DC DVN Visitor Volunteers must complete the full DC DVN training program, which consists of one session, or certify that they are experienced at working with people in government custody or people affected by immigration enforcement actions. Please visit the Events section of this website for information about when training sessions will be held, and how to RSVP. DC DVN requests the visitor to be consistent in his/her visits with detained immigrants, with interest in making one visit per month for a period of at least 4 months. People in detention will request visitors, and DC DVN will connect trained volunteers with individuals in detention for initial visits. If there are no upcoming training sessions scheduled, please let us know you're interested by completing and submitting the VOLUNTEER APPLICATION FORM. After your application has been received a member of the DC DVN will be in touch to talk about next steps.
A visitor is NOT a lawyer to help someone figure out how to get out of detention, NOT a mental health professional, NOT a social worker, NOT a reporter, NOT a missionary trying to convert detained immigrants, and NOT a source of financial support. Nevertheless, a visitor can help detained immigrants contact organizations that can provide legal, medical, psychological, or other assistance. Program leaders can help visitor volunteers locate these resources.
When you become a visitor volunteer, people in detention are not the only ones who benefit. Volunteers grow in their understanding of themselves and others, in their compassion for all people, and in their knowledge of our nation’s immigration system and its impact on American and immigrant families alike. Following are some testimonies from experienced visitors.
“I have changed myself so much, because it is really a great feeling to give unconditional love to someone in need, to someone who does not have another human being to care for them, to make them laugh in these hard difficult times, and to tell them stories about the weather, or family and kids.” - Melfi, Visitor Volunteer, New Jersey
“What I didn’t expect was that I, too, would get so much out of this program. These visits have allowed me into a different world of both hope and sadness. So many people suffer terribly in their own countries, and leave their homes and families to seek safety and freedom in the United States, only to end up in immigration detention. It is humbling to get to know a few of them. Learning about [their experiences] has enabled me to tell others...so hopefully they will be moved to do something about it, since with knowledge comes the possibility of change. While I continue to hope that my visits help the detained immigrants that I come to know, I know that they have enriched my life beyond what I’d ever imagined.” - Deborah Cooper, Visitor Volunteer, New York
Currently, volunteers may visit people in detention at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement contract facilities Farmville (VA) Detention Center and Caroline (VA) Detention Facility.
"Out of the blue this morning I got a call from A., one of the detainees I'd visited in Snow HIll. He has just been released and is back with his wife and children. He had applied for asylum, which wasn't granted, but instead they lifted the deportation order and he's safe now. He called to thank everyone in our visitation network, said how much it meant to him to know that there were people who cared about detainees, and begged us to keep visiting. Obviously life isn't going to be easy for him. But it was an amazing moment when I answered the phone and he said who he was and then said: 'I am free.'"
I just heard from D., who I wrote a few letters to (as part of the pen pal program). He got released, and he said that one of the first things he wanted to do was thank me, because getting letters made his day better.
"Since you matched me up with O. last October I continued to visit him every week. We became very good friends and I even went to his immigration trial. He won! He’s going to be released soon. It’s really incredible. I plan to continue my friendship with him. This is an incredible program, I personally was able to give O. hope and make his life so much better."
I was able to visit with L. He told me that having a repeat visit from a person "gave him courage." The good news is that L. has been approved for release! He wanted me to tell everyone how much he has appreciated their visits. He told me that, for the 4 months he has been in detention, DC DVN volunteers have been his only visitors.
From a letter from G.: "I am writing this letter to show my gratitude for your compassionate assistance during these days of my suffering in ICE detention and COVID pandemics. It's been really frustrating. I pray to return the compassion to others whenever I am able to. Please thank L. and your entire organization for your helping."
"Words cannot express the gratitude that I feel towards you guys. Thank you for all your prayers, your support, your friendship and more. May God continue to bless you all daily. All at Caroline send their love to you all."
In January, one of our friends, R., called to tell us he’d been freed and was back with his family in Maryland. R. had been transferred from a Maryland facility to a Pennsylvania location last year. R. has permission to work again, and he told us how grateful he was to our volunteers for visiting and keeping in touch while he was in detention.
Once again in February, we heard that another friend had won the right to come home. C. is a young man who was also detained in Maryland, and then transferred to Pennsylvania, for a total of 10 months before winning dismissal of removal proceedings against him.
This video will help you with listening skills for volunteers.
Below are some documents related to our visitation program. Pease click on a file to download.