Story and photo by Sally Pillay, CSW
IRATE–First Friends, an organization in Elizabeth, New Jersey, that seeks dignity for immigrants, has developed an ongoing collaboration with the Dominican Sisters of Caldwell, New Jersey. The partnership has been marked with good faith and compassion in helping immigrants who are languishing in detention.
IRATE–First Friends has established visitation programs at four locations in New Jersey (Elizabeth Detention Center, Bergen County Correctional Jail, Hudson County Correctional Jail and the Delaney Hall Facility) where more than 2,000 immigrants are being held while they fight their immigration cases or await deportation.
Many of these immigrant detainees are eligible for release on immigration bond/bail, but cannot afford to pay. Detainees who cannot afford the cost are in accelerated deportation proceedings with little opportunity to contact their families or legal counsel. Knowing this is a challenge faced by many in detention, the Social Justice Committee of the Caldwell Dominican Sisters worked in committed collaboration with other Dominican congregations (Amityville, Blauvelt, Caldwell, Hope and Sparkill), to apply for a grant: Action to Aid the Undocumented-Detained.
With this grant, First Friends and the Dominican sisters were able to help an individual who was detained for eight months in immigration holdings at the Hudson County Correctional Facility. Mr. Udho was released on immigration bond the day after Christmas. This was earmarked as a special “Christmas miracle” for Mr. Udho as he was re-unified with his loved ones during the holiday season.
Mr. Udho wanted to show his gratitude to the Dominican sisters, and a lunch meeting was organized by Sister deMontfort Kinchellagh, OP (Promoter of Justice for Caldwell) on March 10. While Mr. Udho shared a tasty meal with the sisters, he was honored to share his experience of being detained and showed extreme gratitude to the sisters for helping him get released.
“Words can never express what I am truly feeling right now, to know that there are people on the outside that care about us,” said Mr. Udho. The shared experience was emotional, and the aspect of “humanity” was clearly evident. With the collaboration of the Dominican sisters, we are all drawn to the same cause of fighting for justice and human rights for our immigrant brothers and sisters.