by Cindy Knoebel

Noheli, a citizen of Venezuela, arrived in the U.S. in 2018 to seek asylum - and was immediately placed in detention in California, where she remained for 4 long months. "I never thought I'd be detained, just asking for help," she says in a new video, "Compassion Not Cages: Freedom for Immigrants' Powerful Initiative to Welcome Asylum Seekers," released today by Freedom for Immigrants in recognition of World Refugee Day. "There's no way I can truly express what you experience while inside detention," Noheli continues. "It's hell."

A press release that accompanies the video calls on all people in the United States to open up their homes to those in need of refuge. "Together, we will show the rest of the country that caging people is not only immoral — but also unnecessary," it states.

While in detention, Noheli developed a serious infection. "I wanted to die, because the pain was so terrible," she says in the video.

In July, Noheli was released on a $3,000 bond, and found a home with sponsor Susi Marzuola and her family in Berkeley. "The Freedom for Immigrants hosting program ... really helps someone not only be out of detention, but to be in a supportive environment and give them the opportunity to succeed in their case," says Grisel Ruiz, who is the Board Chair of Freedom for Immigrants and an attorney with the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

Noheli (photo credit: Susi Marzuola)

Following surgery, Noheli has recoved - but she misses her three children, ages 16, 14 and 10, terribly. "They tell me they miss me, that they want to see me," Noheli says. "I tell them they have to be strong and have patience during this process, that soon we will be together whether over there or here."

Freedom for Immigrants is developing community-based alternatives to detention models and working with legislators to make sure that, as a country, we can help more people like Noheli.

Here are a few ways you can help right now.