“For I Was in Prison and You Visited Me”

For those of you interested in supporting a ministry to those detained in ICE centers, some of our advocates have developed a guide to facilitate this. After you read over it, and feel like you would like to do this, please contact the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network’s Norma Herrera (she runs our Detention Watch program) at <norma.rgvequalvoice@gmail.com> and she will help you with the next steps.

Guide for Messaging with People in ICE Detention

  • Go to Getting Out
  • Click on 1 to Create Account
  • Go back out to main page
  • Click on 2 to Deposit Funds and log in if you need to
  • Once you’ve agreed to the terms and/or completed your profile (or click “skip”), you’ll see a page that says WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO DO NEXT?
  • Click on Make a Deposit
  • Next you will Choose a Facility
  • Search for Port Isabel, TX, click continue
  • You will have to deposit funds into “Inmate Account” for the person detained as well as “Friends and Family Account” for yourself
  • Click Inmate Account
  • Enter the A number and the first three letters of the last name of the person you are messaging
  • Once their profile pops up, click on it to deposit funds
  • You could start with $5-$10 for the person detained and $5-$10 for your own account. Messages are $0.25 each.
  • Go back out to main page and follow the same steps to deposit funds into your own “Friends and Family Account”
  • Go back out to main page and click Messages and Photos on the top right hand side menu
  • Click Log in and Send a message! under Written Messages
  • Click Skip for Now on Phone Verification and setting up a profile photo unless you want to do either of those (you don’t need to)
  • Click Messages and then Send New Message
  • The profiles of people detained will only show up as options to send messages to if you’ve deposited funds into their accounts. You can see them in the Contacts tab. 
  • Send a message! You could say something like “Hola, buenos dias/tardes. Me llamo [XXX]. Soy voluntario/a y me interesa el bienestar de las personas detenidas. Noy soy abogada/o y solo te mando mensaje para platicar un poco contigo. Como estas?”


Tips for Supporting People in Detention

  • The purpose of communicating with people detained is first to provide some support and an opportunity for them to communicate with a friendly volunteer. And secondly to monitor the conditions inside the facility so that we continue to stay aware of any developments, including cases of COVID-19.
  • Be clear about who you are and who you volunteer with. Be clear that we are not offering to get people released, we are offering to fight with individuals detained and expose the detention conditions. 
  • Do not offer any support you cannot provide.
  • When referring to yourself, always use the plural “we” so that folks detained understand that you are part of a network of volunteers who care about their wellbeing and are helping to monitor the conditions they are forced to live in. Always use plural – we on the outside, you all on the inside – identify them all as a group and do not distinguish individuals.
  • Get consent from the beginning – ask what you have permission to make public or not make public.
  • If you get reports of organizing or hunger striking in detention, confirm how many pods/dormitories are involved, how many people, and what are their demands. It’s very important to know what they are asking for. 
  • Don’t tell people what to do and don’t offer ideas. We could be exposing people to danger by suggesting tactics they should use. 
  • If people detained report medical neglect, unsanitary conditions, ICE abuse, or anything that seems out of the ordinary, ask them to call a free hotline provided by Freedom For Immigrants, an organization monitoring conditions in detention and advocating for the release of all individuals detained. The hotline number for people inside detention is a variation of *9233#, depending on how they normally dial out of their facility. You could say:
    • “Si tienes algo que reportar, le puedes hablar a este número. Depende de como se marcan los numeros gratis desde los teléfonos que usan ustedes el numero seria (9233 o *9233# o 9233# o *9233). Es gratis y confidencial y la línea es para reportar las condiciones en detención. Si no tienen jabón para evitar contagiarse con el virus, si te tiran en el pozo, si no hay cuidado médico, si crees que hay persona enfermas con el virus, si hay personas en cuarentena, todo esto lo puedes reportar. Cualquier cosa que te parezca injusta o que no te parece normal la puedes reportar.”
  • If people detained report medical neglect, unsanitary conditions, ICE abuse, or anything that seems out of the ordinary, please also report this information here and email Mike Seifert, ACLU of Texas at mseifert@aclutx.org and Norma Herrera, RGV Equal Voice Network at norma.rgvequalvoice@gmail.com to let them know you’ve added new information to the notes log. 
  • If people detained would like help preparing their own application for parole, the Freedom For Immigrants hotline can help fill out a parole request on their behalf in English and mail it to them to give to their Deportation Officer.
  • Keep in mind that ICE can and does monitor phone calls and messages out of detention. Be discreet if possible.