I first learned of El Refugio in 2014, when the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at Emory University, the organization I worked for at the time, put on a conference about immigration. Marie Marquardt, the organization’s board chair emeritus, mentioned El Refugio while on a panel discussing immigrant detention, a horror I did not know existed.
She explained that El Refugio was a ministry of hospitality, providing visitation to immigrants detained at Stewart Detention Center in the rural and isolated Lumpkin, Georgia, and free accommodations and meals to the friends and family members of detainees. I thought this was such a beautiful concept, so gracious and giving, a shining light of kindness amid dark circumstances.
When a job opportunity at El Refugio surfaced four years later, I jumped! Now I am learning all about immigrant detention and the network of privately operated civil prisons spread around the country that house more than 110,000 immigrants. The best sources for information are Freedom for Immigrants, and this publication by Project South.
I am so honored to work with detained immigrants and their families and to get the opportunity to educate myself about the gross violation of human rights going on right in my state. (Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms stopped detaining immigrants on behalf of ICS in Atlanta shortly after taking office.)
I will share more as I learn more…