by Susan Lange

Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

I have been a volunteer with the [Faithful Friends/Amigos Fieles]( immigration detention visitation program for the past four years. I have visited at the Sacramento Jail, the Yuba County Jail in Marysville, and the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center in Elk Grove, California.

It has been my experience that the people I visit have such a burden to bear that they simply cannot bear it alone.

They often find great comfort in the act of giving their burden to God. I hear “It’s in God’s hands” very often. While I do not share this theology with them, the comfort they find in the act of letting go is something I do share.

When I cross the threshold of barbed wire to enter the world of prison as experienced by detained immigrants, I too “let go.” There is a spirituality to being so outside the normalcy of what life should be like, that I too can only bear it by letting go.

Of all the people I have visited, there are very few who have had family or friends to visit them. Although it greatly saddened me at first, I am used to being told that I am the first person to visit from the outside since someone has been incarcerated. One young man had been there a year and a half without a visitor until I showed up.

I am often asked, “What do you talk about?” This is never a problem. The words practically tumble out once a person knows you really are interested. It is healthy to be able to express yourself and it puts things in perspective. Although I know that I can really do very little to objectively help with people’s individual cases, I realize that simply being listened to is a precious gift.

I have often thought of the spirituality of visiting people in immigration detention. Every person that I have visited is so thankful for human connection and for confirmation of their humanity, dignity, and worth, that they absorb everything you are willing to give.

The experience of visiting people in the extreme conditions of detention lays bare the commonality between two humans of even very different cultural, social, economic, and ethnic backgrounds.

We often pray together, which I think of as a way of shutting out everything else and the other people there — and just letting our energy and our common human needs fill the space.

It doesn’t matter what words we use. We just touch each other’s humanity and share life. That human connection means everything to them, and to me.

***Susan Lange is a visitor volunteer at ***Faithful Friends/Amigos Fieles***, a CIVIC-affiliated immigration detention visitation program in California. To learn more about immigration detention and to join our growing movement to close immigrant prisons, visit***.

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