By Sharon Casey, OP
Detention centers are spread throughout the United States. The Tacoma Dominicans have one in our “backyard,” about 10 minutes from our administrative offices. On July 15, 15 sisters and associates spent the afternoon outside the detention center, offering refreshments and support to the families returning from visiting their loved ones. As they came through the gates, many in tears, we welcomed them, listened to them, and offered refreshment. It was a hot day, and many people had traveled hundreds of miles to visit a husband, brother, uncle or father. Children especially were distraught because they could not give or receive hugs as visiting was restricted by a glass between the detainees and the visitors.
We spoke with many people that afternoon. Jose [not his real name], a high school student, traveled more than 500 miles to see his father. Maria [not her real name] traveled over 200 miles to see her ex brother in law because after all he was still family. A large family group came through the gate with two boys, probably ages 8 and 9, crying over seeing their uncle. We simply stood outside, standing in solidarity with those detained and their families. A few of the sisters were able to provide information about local resources to assist families from outside of the area. At least one of our sisters has received clearance to visit the detention center; she also helps with translation.
Associate Pat Passmore began this ministry of hospitality to immigrant detainees a few years ago. Pat comes once a month to provide comfort and food. Our Immigration Reform Committee initiated this year’s action, and invited the community to join them. This is another way for us to give life and meaning to our Corporate Stance on Comprehensive Immigration Reform: “We, the Dominican Sisters and Associates of the Tacoma Dominican Community, recognize the sacredness of each person. We support Comprehensive Immigration Reform, which includes viable legal avenues for immigration, the integrity of families, and opportunities for permanent residency.”