El Refugio Ministry
Mission, Purpose, and Core Values of El Refugio Ministry
El Refugio is ministry of hospitality and visitation serving immigrants detained at the Stewart Detention Center, their families, and friends.
Purpose: El Refugio opens its doors each weekend to families traveling to visit their loved ones who are detained at the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia. The hospitality house offers free food, lodging, friendship and comfort to visitors. In addition, El Refugio has a visitation program, which brings hundreds of volunteer visitors every year to visit with detained immigrants. El Refugio coordinators work not only in hospitality and visitation, but also to offer education and advocacy programs throughout the Southeastern United States, with the goal of promoting a more just and humane immigration system.
Hospitality: Our hospitality house, one mile from Stewart Detention Center, offers welcome, support, love, and respect to families and friends of those in detention. We provide lodging, meals, affirmation, and companionship to all of our guests. We assist with clothing and travel expenses when possible. Our home is a refuge of hospitality for those suffering from the intentionally inhospitable system of immigration detention.
We visit immigrants and asylum-seekers who have no one else to visit them, and we connect detained immigrants with pen-pals. Our visitation and letter-writing programs are rooted in the ethic of presence. Working against the radically dehumanizing system of immigration detention, we believe our most powerful role is simply to be present to the people we visit in detention – to recognize their full humanity, to see them face-to-face, to hear them, and to build relationships with them. We walk alongside those suffering the crisis of detention and deportation, and we refuse to turn away from their suffering. Through our sustained presence, we also aim to hold Core Civic and ICE accountable for their treatment of detained immigrants.
Education and Advocacy: Each year, we host hundreds of visitors from faith communities, schools, and civic groups. After offering an orientation on the U.S. immigration and detention systems, we accompany our guests to Stewart Detention Center to meet with individuals who have been detained. Following the visits, we debrief about their experience visiting detained immigrants, as well as the realities of detention, and our civic responsibilities in light of what we have learned. We also offer presentations and dialogue to educate the public about immigration detention. Our work bears witness to the historic crisis of immigration detention and encourages visitors to advocate for more just immigration policies.