The idea of starting another community house in Florence started about 9 months ago.
Some of us have been meeting regularly after our one year reflection retreat when the idea to start another house in Florence, Arizona, came up. Our planning and visioning group has included a lawyer, a former prison chaplain, a former prison inmate, a former immigration detainee, a social services coordinator for immigration detainees, and members and friends of our community.
Florence is home to four immigration detention centers and is near Eloy, AZ, where more than 1,500 women are held in immigration detention. It is isolated and very few support systems are in place for those awaiting their hearings. Many people stay there for several months, some, several years.
We have been working with and learning from the Florence Project since the Restoration Project at Casa Mariposa began in 2009. The Florence Project is a group of non-profit lawyers and legal support staff who represent those in immigration detention centers who are most at risk if they do not receive asylum or release. We have written letters, visited people in detention, and hosted folks just out of the detention centers. It has been a tremendous experience. We have become friends with those who stayed here and keep in touch with them. Each time someone was released and came to stay with us we celebrated with great feasts. Some we made, some they made for us. A few folks taught us how to make their favorite food from their home countries. Delicious papusas and peanut soup with chicken, most recently.
On Friday, 21 people gathered in the living room to hear about the vision and mission of what is next. We have our eye on a property for sale in Florence. But we are also continuing what we are already doing and making plans to expand our work of writing, visiting, and hospitality right where we are.
We’ll write more soon about how you can join in.
Here is the unfolding vision and mission for the work of accompanying those in immigration detention centers in Florence and Eloy.
Through facilitating human connection we seek to liberate the gifts and capacities of those being held captive both inside and outside of immigration detention facilities, so that we might work together to transform our world.
Honor the dignity of every human being
Through writing and visiting those being detained in immigration detention centers in Florence and Eloy, Arizona, we seek to nurture compassion and foster human connection.
Serve as active witnesses
Through being a peaceful presence in the midst of detention facilities and the town of Florence we seek to listen to and validate the experiences of those in detention.
Through face-to-face, personal interaction, outreach, and education we seek to reveal the realities of the U.S. immigration and detention systems and the toll on our collective humanity.
Through presence and hospitality, we seek to create spiritual and physical sanctuary for those being detained and once they are released.
Build a network of mutual support
Through the inherent and considerable gifts and resources of those who have been detained and community allies, we seek to foster a sustainable lifeline of hope, solidarity, and tangible support.