Serving detained immigrants in need

ICDI Updates  (May 13, 2020)

Here are ways you can help right now:

1) Make calls to advocate for the release of vulnerable people

We are part of a national network to participate in making calls to ICE asking for the release of specific people.  It’s easy to do through the link which provides information, numbers, and scripts.

2) Mutual Aid ICDI COVID-10 Response

We’ve checked in with as many people as possible, current and past participants who have come through ICDI over the years.  Many people have experienced wage loss in the slow down. This is a living document where we are sharing requests for assistance.  Please consider making a donation through the link on the spreadsheet.


Jail Visitation 

As we are all aware, everything is changing quite rapidly in our day-to-day lives. The Jail Visitation program is not immune to this and all in-person visitation has been suspended for the foreseeable future. We have not let that get us down, though.

This week we have started an effort we hope will allow us to continue to do the work about which we care so deeply: letter writing to those detained in Dodge, McHenry, and Kankakee.

ICDI is still working to make sure that those detained in these facilities have access to at least $10 dollars in their commissary accounts. It has certainly been a time of adjustment and improvisation for many of us at ICDI, but I am hopeful that letter writing can become a significant and life-giving part of our lives during lockdown.

We will also be shipping spiritual materials to the jails for distribution.

Unaccompanied Children’s Interfaith Ministry (UCIM)

The UCIM volunteers have gone above and beyond the call of duty this month, responding to needs in a constantly shifting environment.  As of this writing, we are not permitted to set up visits, calls, or video conferences with the youth in centers, due to the large number of positive COVID-19 cases among the youth and staff.  We created pre-recorded video messages for Good Friday, Easter, Vaisakhi, and all occasions. We also sent 72 Easter gift bags with handmade cards, candy, prayer cards, rosaries, and stickers.  

For the Sikh holiday of Vaisakhi we have arranged for candy, decorations, handmade cards in addition to a special meal.  Additionally, volunteers have sent in musical recordings, have read simple books on video, and have provided links to religious instruction and worship services online.

Preparations for Ramadan are in full swing.  Our Muslim interns and volunteers, with leadership from Ali Smith, the new Jail Ministry Program Director, have been working for months on educating staff at the centers about fundamentals of Islam, iftar meal preparation, schedule preparation to allow for late-night prayers, and more.  We are so grateful for these crucial contributions.

Although the pre-recorded messages and gifts are crucially important at this time, they are not an adequate replacement for 2-way communication, which is fundamental to any spiritual care program.  We are praying that 2-way communication between the youth and our program will be restored as expeditiously as possible.

Post-Detention Accompaniment and Case Management

ICDI maintains assistance and support for the individuals we serve through case management offered to people living in our Hyde Park housing cooperative and people who are being supported in community placements. With social distancing in place, case management is taking place by phone. We’ve assisted those that need to sign up for unemployment benefits, need medical coordination, request pastoral care, and have financial needs. In particular, many are suffering from a loss of wages and are unable to pay their rent.

With local and state orders in place, the hotline has maintained limited accompaniment to coordinate and pay for travel when someone is released from detention. Getting released from detention can be overwhelming, especially during a global pandemic. 

In coordination with CITA, hotline resources were diverted to funnel essential goods to hospitals (that primarily serve undocument communities) across the Chicagoland area, including an assistance program for teen mothers. These donations included diapers, medicine, hygiene products, gloves, sanitizer, children’s toys and clothes. 

Chicago Immigrant Transit Assistance (CITA)

We donated bottles of hand sanitizer to bus station staff and security due to a lack of protective equipment. We also partnered with CommunityHealth to redistribute donations to patients with items such as essential hygiene products, dry food, and hand sanitizer that would be immediately used. CITA and the Hotline worked together to donate children’s items to a teen pregnancy agency. CITA volunteers met virtually to discuss ICDI updates and collaboratively share resources to advocate for immigrants and refugees during the pandemic. 

Court Watch

Every court has different openings and closings, the EOIR website has a list of the operational status.  As of right now, the Chicago court is still holding video-conference hearings for people who are detained.   

The fact that the EOIR is still operational in some cities has upset numerous groups including the National Association of Immigration Judges. Our own Chicago Judge, Judge Samuel Cole, is the Director of Communications and here is an interview he did on the subject.

There are also some lawsuits in Portland and Washington D.C. Legal groups in Portland are pushing for better precautionary measures in the courts and the lawsuit in Washington DC is pushing to close the courts during the pandemic. Here and here are articles that give more information about this.


DHS is unlawfully deporting children to danger

Migration-related Policies on CARS Act, H.R. 748/ S. 3548

Interfaith Prayer Vigil Sheet

The current administration has a case pending for decision before the Supreme Court based on its intent to eliminate DACA and thus make all the recipients subject to deportation.  The attorneys for the DACA recipients sent this letter to the Supreme Court.

Efforts like this help sustain the hope for all the good people in our nation.  Let us pray that DACA is not eliminated.


See our “What You Can Do” one-page document for ideas regarding advocating for and helping unaccompanied children in centers in Chicago.  Feel free to forward this document to friends and neighbors- there are ways to get the whole family involved.

#FreeThemAll a toolkit to advocate for the release of those in immigrant detention

Hispanic Caucus calls for release of those in detention

American Business Immigration Coalition: Support the Families First Coronavirus Act (H.R. 6201) 

ICIRR Resources for Immigrants during the COVID-19 Crisis

ICDI’s Response to the Corona virus pandemic

As conditions around the COVID-19 pandemic continue to evolve, we are making an effort as an organization to put in place the best possible practices to ensure the health and safety of our participants, volunteers, supporters, and staff, based on the recommendations of public health officials.

ICDI has implemented the following and will continue to make changes as needed:

ICDI is actively advocating on behalf of people in immigrant detention and in ICE custody.

We are working with jails to explore alternative ways to support people in detention and will continue to put commissary funds into accounts with a balance of less than $10.

We are advocating for the release of people in immigrant detention so that they can stay in place safely with family and friends.

We are exploring alternative ways to support and advocate for unaccompanied children.

All in-person volunteer visits are suspended.  We are building alternative ways for volunteers to engage and support adults and children in detention.

All employees are conducting their work remotely for the foreseeable future. In-person meetings will be rescheduled or conducted by conference call or virtual meeting.

The Sisters of Mercy Admin building and all of the jails and children’s centers are closed to in-person services.

Case management will continue for those in our care at the CTU Housing Cooperative, the Christian Brothers home, and private locations.  Case management will be conducted by phone and video conferencing for the protection of all.

We are not accepting in-kind donations at this time.

ICDI events are postponed until further notice.  This includes the Art Event scheduled for March 19th and the Volunteer Appreciation Event scheduled for May 4th.

We encourage all participants, volunteers, and supporters to reach out to us directly with any questions or concerns about the impacts of these changes.

We will continue to make safety the highest priority for everyone in our network, and we move forward with the understanding that we may be required to make additional adjustments to our programming as conditions change.

Thank you for your support and understanding during this difficult time.