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) offices. In some cities, a successful tool to protect against this threat to due process has been to accompany individuals to these check-ins.
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 or the office of BI Incorporated, a subsidiary of the GEO Group, the private contractor who administers ICE's Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP) - the ankle monitors.
Why does IFCLA coordinate accompaniment efforts?
By volunteering to accompany migrants to immigration 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 immigration check-ins can be helpful in various ways. First, our non-anxious presence serves as an act of welcoming and support to the compas (an inclusive term for the individuals we are honored to accompany, from the Spanish root "compañeros," or companion) during an often traumatic time; we are humbled to walk with the compas in this experience and together demonstrate that no one stands alone. Second, the teams act as a witness to the actions of immigration authorities and publicly declares support for the rights of the immigrant in question. Third, when an accompaniment team includes clergy or people of faith and goodwill, it acts as an expression of prophetic resistance to policies and laws that are not compatible with our values. Finally, when an accompaniment team includes an interpreter, the compa has the access to immediately understand the results of the interaction and support to facilitate communication with family, friends or 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 growing 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 accompany our neighbors with over 100 making the commitment to serve in this capacity. We have practiced solidarity with compas during more than a dozen check-ins at ICE and ISAP offices. New accompaniment trainings occur regularly, and partner organizations are working to spread the word through immigrant communities that this accompaniment program exists and is available to all. To stay informed on future accompaniment trainings and for more information, join our mailing list by clicking below, or email us with questions.