FAQs About Contigo and Detention
What is Contigo?
Contigo, established in April 2020, is one of the Southern Arizona organizations that helps incarcerated asylum seekers before and after release. Contigo is an Immigration Justice Ministry sponsored by Mountain Vista Unitarian Universalist Church. It is an interfaith coalition including the Baha ‘i community of Tucson and other
faiths. Contigo seeks to find sponsors for incarcerated immigrants so that they can be released from detention. Asylum seekers who are accepted into our program are referred to as our “guests.” We befriend them, help them to find housing in the Tucson community, and accompany them on their journey.
What is Contigo’s Mission?
Sadly, our current immigration system is punitive, chaotic, and capricious with rules and laws that change continually. For many years there has not been any comprehensive overhaul of the immigration system. It is our mission to care, with dignity, people who are subjected to inhumane treatment within the immigration system and asylum process.
The mission of Contigo is to provide accompaniment for our guests. This includes pre and post detention support for asylum seekers who are in detention in Arizona, and at times, other states. While incarcerated, we provide either in-person or phone and/or written communication (during Covid) with identified asylum seekers who need both emotional and logistical support while in detention. We find sponsors for people needing them in order to be released, and we find hosts and temporary housing for the asylum seekers who choose to stay in Tucson. We also provide services and resources for them during their initial 6-9 months in Tucson, as they begin to learn English, apply for work permits, and become adjusted to their new life in the US.
What does Contigo Do?
Contigo members form relationships with those in detention. Before release, we offer friendship, connect through visits, phone calls and letters, and provide other support such as helping them to understand the immigration system and what steps they need to take. A main source of support is finding sponsors for those who need them in order to be released. After release, we provide temporary housing preferably with a host in a home setting. Contigo and the host make every effort to work together to provide for a safe and welcoming environment, and the resources they need to establish their life in US.
Who is detained in our two Arizona detention centers in Eloy and La Palma?
Folks from all over the world are detained here. Most people come from Haiti, Mexico, and the Central American countries of Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. Many are from African countries such as Congo, Cameroon and Togo. Some are from China, Russia, India, and more recently from Cuba and Venezuela.
What challenges do released asylum seekers face?
Post-detention is riddled with difficulties—lack of housing or very crowded housing, lack of medical care, no work permit, no job, and no English. All this is often exacerbated by the trauma that asylum seekers have likely experienced in their home country, let alone on their journey to arrive at the US border. In addition they have to adapt to a new culture and a new language. Also, many asylum seekers know no one in the US and often feel isolated.
One Story of Many
The first person Contigo sponsored was a Venezuelan woman. She and her husband fled death threats and persecution in their home country. They presented themselves at a US port of entry legally asking for asylum. They were told they had to wait two months in Mexico. After two months, when they were finally allowed to enter the US, they were chained at their wrists, waist and feet and transported to the Eloy and La Palma detention centers separately. The woman was incarcerated for more than a year. Her husband, released after eight months, established himself in New York. The woman was released via humanitarian parole and has joined her husband in New York City.