What is accompaniment?
For IFCLA, accompaniment is both a mindset and a ministry. We believe accompaniment is walking alongside someone in their journey, acknowledging mutuality in the struggle for justice. In day-to-day practice, this looks like the Accompaniment Project: being present with immigrants when they present themselves for check-ins at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office.
Why does IFCLA coordinate accompaniment efforts?
Across the country there have been several cases of migrants being detained after going for a routine check-in at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office. In some cities, a successful tool to protect against this threat to due process has been to accompany individuals to these check-ins. By volunteering to accompany migrants to ICE check-ins, we are able to show solidarity and perhaps, in a small way, help to ease the anxiety of interacting with the legal system, reducing the likelihood of detention with our presence, and keeping relatives and/or lawyers informed in case the individual is detained.
Is accompaniment a useful tool?
Accompanying individuals to ICE check-ins can be helpful in various ways. First, it acts as a presence of witness to the actions of ICE and publicly declares support for the rights of the immigrant in question. Second, when an accompaniment team includes clergy or people of faith and goodwill, it acts as a declaration of sacred resistance to policies and laws that come against our values. Third, when an accompaniment team includes a translator and lawyer, the individual checking-in with ICE has the ability to understand the results of the meeting and immediate legal counsel, if necessary.
How can I get involved in the accompaniment project?
Teams have been active in St. Louis since July 2017 as part of a state-wide initiative to ensure that no one has to go to a check-in alone. To date, over 230 individuals have been trained to be compas (an inclusive term for individuals practicing accompaniment, from the Spanish root "compañeros," or companion), and immigrants have been supported during a dozen ICE check-ins. New accompaniment trainings occur regularly, and partner organizations are working to spread the word through immigrant communities that this accompaniment service exists and is available. To stay informed on future accompaniment trainings and for more information, join our mailing list by clicking below, or email us with questions!