People from all walks of life sit around a table once a month to find new ways to support local immigrants who await trial for deportation in places like the Irwin County Detention Center. The group calls themselves the South Georgia Immigrant Support Network (SGISN).
SGISN is made up of college professors, immigrants, immigration lawyers, ministers of faith and students from local colleges. Their goal is to provide a voice for the people who currently don’t know their fate in immigration court.
Fear from police forces like Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has brought these people together to find ways to legally and peacefully support families affected by the round-ups. For example, SGISN has acquired a house that they call “Casa de Libre” or house of the free.
When people are released from detention centers instead of being deported, members from SGISN pick them up from the center. They leave there and go to Casa de Libre to relax and experience a normal night like a human being.
After a good nights rest and a proper meal, the immigrants can be on their way to meet up with friends or family.
The conditions the immigrants face in detention are harsh. The only jobs available inside detention pay less than a dollar a day. Hygiene products and other daily necessities are over-priced and difficult for inmates to purchase. The food served lacks the nutrition that a human body needs to maintain health. Another burden is the separation from family outside detention.
Members from SGISN routinely write pen pal letters to inmates inside Irwin County Detention Center. They attend visitation hours for inmates who haven’t had a visitor for 6 months to a year.
“It might seem like it would be a little awkward talking to a stranger who you have never met,” said Ric Steward, a board member of SGISN. “But just having someone to talk to and get thoughts off their chest goes a long way for these people in detention.”
SGISN is looking for volunteers to help at Casa de Libre, and other jobs to find ways to support the people being affected by immigration laws. Jess Usher, Assistant Professor of History at ABAC can assist people interested in volunteering or donating to SGISN.