Visitation Program


Do I qualify to be a volunteer?

  • Visitors must have valid government-issued identification with a photograph (in order to gain entrance to detention facilities).  
  • You must be at least 18 years of age. A minor is only allowed if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian.  
  • A past misdemeanor or felony conviction may disqualify you for service. Please inquire with DC DVN staff.  
  • You must be aware of your surroundings. You must be able to evacuate a detention facility without assistance in the event of an emergency. People who cannot meet these requirements can support detainees in other roles, such as by writing letters and sending reading materials.  
  • You must have enough fluency in English to take directions from detention center officers and make yourself understood to officers and staff.  

How do I become a Visitor Volunteer?

DC DVN Visitor Volunteers must complete the full DC DVN training program, which consists of one session. 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.  Detainees will request visitors, and DC DVN will connect trained volunteers with detainees 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.

What is NOT expected of visitor volunteers?

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.

Positive Effects of Visiting Individuals in Detention

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 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

Where We Visit

Currently, volunteers visit detainees at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement contract facilities at the Howard County (MD) Detention Center and the Worcester County (MD) Jail.

News From Our Visits

Good News - April 21, 2017

"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.'"

Good News - October 24, 2018

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.  

Another Friend Released - April 2019

"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."

Volunteer Training Materials

This video will help you with listening skills for volunteers.