Amnesty International USA (AIUSA) and Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) have launched a new campaign entitled “Hope Can’t Be Quarantined” as a response to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
The initiative encourages the public to support immigrants and asylum-seekers held in detention at this time of crisis and offers several ways to get involved. Participants can download a digital toolkit with instructions to write messages of hope to detainees, learn about immigration detention in the U.S., donate to detention visitation programs, and share their acts of support online.
“As more Americans are confined to their own homes, they increasingly relate to the isolation and fear that thousands of migrants in detention feel,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service. “This campaign allows supporters to engage in creative ways to forge closer connections and offer hope to those who need it the most.”
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As of late March 2020, approximately 38,000 immigrants were being held in detention centers across the country. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, immigration authorities suspended all social visitation in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. These visits from friends, family, faith leaders, and volunteers are a vital source of hope for thousands of men and women.
“Now is the time for the United States to ensure that everyone, no matter where they may be, has the health care that they need. Treating people that are detained as an afterthought puts everyone’s public health in danger. We can, and we must, do better” said Denise Bell, researcher for refugee and migrant rights at Amnesty International USA. “This is the time to show that are all interconnected and that we stand together, even while physically apart.”
Letters, poems, and artwork will be delivered to detention centers by El Refugio (Atlanta, GA), Allies to End Detention (San Diego, CA), Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest (Phoenix, AZ) and LIRS’ wider network of visitation partners. Donations to local partners will be used to support their mission, which includes the bolstering of commissary accounts immigrants use to contact their loved ones and purchase hygiene products while in detention.
“If this crisis has made anything clear, it is that we are all dependent upon each other to ensure the health and well-being of our neighbors and ourselves,” noted Vignarajah. “We may have to self-isolate for the time being, but we know that hope can’t be quarantined.”