El Refugio Executive Director Amilcar Valencia announced Tuesday that the organization is launching a post-release program that will assist immigrants and asylum-seekers released from Stewart Detention Center in getting to the next step in their journey, either home to their family or their sponsor. The organization will work partnership with other organizations and volunteer groups, including Paz Amigos in Columbus to ensure a safe journey home for everyone released from Stewart.
“Our board of directors has committed to a post-release program in an effort to alleviate the stress and chaos immigrants and asylum-seekers face when released from Stewart,” Valencia said. “El Refugio has been helping for years on an ad hoc basis, but until now we have focused our resources on visitation and hospitality.”
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) often drops immigrants and asylum-seekers off late at night at the Greyhound bus station in Columbus, long after the station has closed. Volunteers with Paz Amigos help them catch their buses and flights every weeknight and often provide overnight accommodations, but the need is overwhelming.
“Through our post-release program, we will offer assistance from the moment immigrants and asylum-seekers are released on bond, on parole, or because they won their case,” Valencia said. “They will be able to stay at our hospitality house while making travel arrangements and wait there to be picked up. They can spend the night, and we will take them to Columbus the next morning to catch a Greyhound bus or airport shuttle. We will provide meals, as well as items such as a backpack, clothing, hygiene supplies, and a pre-paid phone.”
To manage the program, El Refugio is hiring a full-time Post-Release Program Coordinator who will be based in Lumpkin. This new staff member will also open the organization’s hospitality house during the week to host families visiting their loved ones and attending court hearings. The job description may be found here.
El Refugio launched a campaign on July 9 to raise $10,000 in last-mile funding for the post-release program. To contribute, please go here.
The organization is also rebranding and expanding its Compañeros de El Refugio for donors who give monthly. The board invites current and new supporters to join Compañeros de El Refugio, which ensures an income stream throughout the year and demonstrates to foundations the support El Refugio has among individual donors. Donors may sign up via El Refugio’s donation page, which leads to PayPal, where supporters have the option of becoming a recurring donor by checking the box that reads, “Make this a monthly donation.” Donors may also gothrough their bank.
“A new program is a leap of faith,” Valencia said, noting that several foundations and faith groups have already given gifts for the post-release program.”I am so grateful that we have so many friends who are committed to justice for immigrants and asylum-seekers at Stewart and their loved ones.”