The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
Conversations with Friends—Minnesota
LOCATION: Edina, Minnesota
Conversations with Friends (CWF) evolved from a 2010 meeting of five clergy who gathered together to discuss how they could support a person jailed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). One of the clergy, John Guttermann, later received a grant from the Church World Service to establish immigration ministries. After an initial focus attempting to change immigration policies, his focus turned to the accompaniment of immigrant detainees. CWF had their first-ever in-classroom visit on March 27, 2011 in the Ramsey County Adult Detention Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.
CWF’s ministry of accompaniment is in response to the fear, loneliness, isolation, hopelessness, depression, and trauma experienced by those jailed by ICE as well as the inhumanity, injustice and incivility of the U.S. immigration system, whose policy of detention and deportation results in the emotional and psychological torture of detainees and their families and friends. During the pandemic, they are visiting via Zoom with people in two of the four county jails housing ICE detainees in Minnesota. CWF pen pals write to people in all four jails.
UUSC’s partnership supports their ongoing operations as well as a major expansion of their efforts. In 2021, CWF is expanding its financial assistance via commissary deposits so as to provide money for phone cards, supplemental food, and hygiene items for people jailed by ICE at the Sherburne and Kandiyohi County Jails where CWF is not currently visiting, but with whom they have many pen pal relationships. CWF visitors and pen pals offer friendship, fraternity, and solidarity as they support, encourage, listen, affirm and advocate through their peaceful and compassionate presence. They let them know that people in the community truly care, that they are not alone, not abandoned, and that CWF agrees that the U.S. immigration system is unjust, inhumane, and unacceptable.
Image Credit: Conversations with Friends – Minnesota