Jesuit Refugee Service/USA provides direct service via the Detention Chaplaincy Program. See below for more information. We've also created a guide for chaplains and volunteers in detention centers in the United States. Jesuit Refugee Service/USA believes that ensuring detainee access to a Religious Service Program is crucially important as detainees have a fundamental right to freedom and exercise of religion.
Through partnerships with others, such as the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, the Enough Project and iAct, to name just a few, JRS/USA has expanded the accompaniment and service provided to refugees and forcibly displaced people around the world.
Click the tabs below for more information about these programs.
- Detention Chaplaincy
- Chaplain's Resource
- Other Partners
- Pop., Refugees & Migration
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA Detention Chaplaincy Program
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA provides direct service via the Detention Chaplaincy Program. The JRS/USA chaplaincy programs provide pastoral and religious assistance to meet the needs of non-citizens detained by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) both in three U.S. federal detention centers located in Texas, Arizona, New York, and, until November 2012, a Los Angeles County detention center in California. These programs enable people of all faiths to have access to pastoral care within their faith tradition.
During 2012, JRS/USA chaplaincy programs at DHS facilities coordinated 1,180 religious services, 511 religious teachings, and 293 spiritual support sessions in which 48,321 detainees participated. JRS/USA's chaplaincy staff spent nearly 900 hours of direct service offering religious services, religious teachings, and spiritual support.
In addition, our chaplains spent nearly another 2,100 hours visiting detainees in special housing units, providing detainees with religious items, processing requests for religious diets. Volunteers played a significant role by giving over 1,500 hours for religious services, religious teachings, and spiritual support. The religious profile of the detainee population that participated in chaplaincy programs was 43% Roman Catholic, 47% Protestant, 7% Muslim, 1% Jewish and 2% other religions, mostly Sikhism. 28% of services were offered in English; 54% in Spanish or bilingual English/Spanish, and 18% were in other languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, and Punjabi.
JRS/USA chaplaincy programs are based on a non-proselytizing model that is ecumenical in scope and practice. JRS/USA promotes courage, hope and peace for detainees in the ups and downs and day-to-day routines of their lives inside a detention facility. In addition to pastoral counseling, chaplains facilitate religious activities that include opportunities for worship, prayer, scripture services, and fellowship within the traditions of each person’s faith. JRS/USA’s chaplains and pastoral care workers give support to those who find themselves suffering and in crisis. They help individuals who are struggling to find purpose and meaning, value and direction, hope and love in their lives.
JRS/USA's chaplaincy services provide trained chaplains who minister to the spiritual and pastoral needs of detainees. These chaplains understand how important an individual’s faith is in the context of a detention center. They help detainees deal with the emotional and spiritual factors associated with separation from family, loss of economic stability, and pending legal decisions. They encourage men and women to strengthen their religious beliefs and attitudes as they struggle to cope with the despair and uncertainty of detention.
Our accompaniment affirms that God is present in human history, even in its most tragic episodes. We experience this presence. God does not abandon us. As pastoral workers, we focus on this vision and are not side-tracked by political maneuverings or ethnic discrimination among the detainees themselves or among agencies and governments who decide their fate.
For JRS/USA, spiritual care often involves helping people become more aware of the underlying assumptions by which they live while re-evaluating them in the light of the harsh reality of detention and the prospect of being deported. For many detainees, after spending their whole lives in the U.S., it is very frightening to face the possibility of being deported to a country where they have few if any cultural or family connections, limited language skills, and little sense of home.
From 2008 to 2012, in partnership with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the California Province of the Jesuits, JRS/USA maintained a chaplaincy program to serve the spiritual needs of detainees at the Mira Loma – Los Angeles County Detention Center. The program served thousands of detainees, many of whom were fighting to stay in this country and be reunited with their families. There are hundreds of county detention centers like Mira Loma throughout the United States where thousands of detainees are held. In many cases, these men and women have little or no access to religious and spiritual care and are, therefore, further isolated from the support of their faith community during this very challenging time.
Religious Services Program Guide
This section is intended as a resource for chaplains at detention centers throughout the United States.
If you are a chaplain or volunteer unfamiliar with immigration detention in the U.S., the Detention Basics section is a great place to become familiar with terms, and to gain a basic understanding of the Department of Homeland Security and its immigration detention practices.
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA believes that ensuring detainee access to a Religious Service Program (RSP) is crucially important because detainees have a fundamental right to freedom and exercise of religion.
Do you feel called to serve immigration detainees? Chaplains and volunteers can take action. Chaplains can access the Developing an RSP section to become better acquainted with the requirements of running a RSP and determine how to improve the religious services your program offers to detainees.
Volunteers who want to donate their time and skills to a RSP can view the Volunteering section. Your opportunity to serve and accompany detainees may be as simple as contacting the chaplain at the detention facility closest to your home.
With the Kino Border Initiative, JRS/USA has expanded the pastoral care that we have provided undocumented non-citizens over the last nine years in our chaplaincy program. We are now reaching out to men, women and children – most of whom are Mexican citizens – who were detained by the U.S. government and then deported.
JRS partners with the Enough Project in both Chad and Washington, D.C. The Darfur Dream Team works with JRS in Goz Amer refugee camp to provide education for over 6,000 students. In collaboration with the Sister Schools Program, Jesuit Refugee Service/USA Outreach works to inform students in the U.S. about the issues surrounding refugees in eastern Chad and ways to get involved with both organizations.
JRS has partnered with i-ACT to provide preschool education programs to refugee children in Chad who come mainly from the Darfur region. In the Goz Amer camp, i-ACT has provided funding for the construction of the Little Ripples School, where JRS will operate a preschool program. I-ACT also supports headmistresses and school monitors in both Goz Amer and Djabal camps.
The Center for Human Rights and International Justice at Boston College addresses the increasingly interdisciplinary needs of human rights work. Through multidisciplinary training programs, applied research, and the interaction of scholars with practitioners, the Center aims to nurture a new generation of scholars and practitioners in the United States and abroad who draw upon the strengths of many disciplines, and the wisdom of rigorous ethical training in the attainment of human rights and international justice. Recommended papers and videos from The Center can be found on our website by clicking here.
In 2011, JRS and the Center organized a conference on the theological, spiritual, and ethical foundations of JRS service to forcibly displaced persons for academics and JRS field staff. In 2013, Fr. Mark Raper S.J., President of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific and Former International Director of Jesuit Refugee Service presented a paper — Forced Migration and Jesuit Refugee Service: Past, Present and Future — at a Symposium hosted by the Center.
In partnership with Fairfield University Migration Program, JRS/USA collaborates on teaching and research projects that investigate the experience of detained asylum seekers, migration issues, and ways of helping refugees become more self-sufficient.
In partnership with the Jesuit Migration Service—Mexico, JRS/USA collaborates with the broader migration network of Jesuit-affiliated organizations throughout North and South America whose goal is to cooperate on areas of academic research, advocacy, and social/pastoral care of migrants. JRS/USA and Jesuit Migration Service-Mexico are two of the founding members of the Kino Border Initiative.
Catholic Relief Services and JRS collaborate in many parts of the world, from protecting and advocating for human rights in the Dominican Republic to providing education and teacher training in Sri Lanka. CRS also supports a JRS program providing 17,000 hot meals every day to people in more than 20 shelters in Aleppo, Syria.
Information for asylum seekers
Information for asylum seekers in the United States can be found on the following websites:
• CLINIC – Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc.
• Services and Programs for Asylees from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
U.S. State Dept. Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration
The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration granted Jesuit Refugee Service/USA funds that were used for projects in six countries in 2012. Due to the overlap of the U.S. government fiscal year and the calendar year, some of these grants were awarded in 2011 and some in 2012. In 2013, four programs were funded in Ethiopia, Kenya, Chad and Panama.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, funding enabled Jesuit Refugee Service to build four schools in the Katanga Province. Twelve hundred students directly benefitted from the new schools, and training was provided to 42 teachers.
When you have a school in your community, the children will have access for a long time, and they can remain and take part in their own community," said project director Fr. Cyprien Kmengwa. "Please give thanks to the people who have generously donated the money for this, the American people. What we have done we have done it with their help, and God bless them for their generosity," he added.
In South Sudan, a PRM grant for primary education supported 35 schools and directly benefitted more than 17,000 students. Twelve teachers were able to complete yearly studies at a teacher-training institute, and another 10 teachers completed diploma studies at universities in Uganda and then returned to teach in South Sudan.
In Panama, JRS instituted a program to improve conditions for Colombian refugees in Panama. The PRM grant, which started in September, is enabling JRS to provide emergency humanitarian assistance — food vouchers, medical assistance, and short-term shelter; legal assistance and guidance for processing immigrant documents, guidance on rights and Panamanian legal system; aid to process identification documents needed to apply for permanent residency in Panama; training on human rights, women's rights, gender violence and community living; financial support for refugees to operate their small businesses, providing much needed income and enabling them to step towards self-sufficiency; psychosocial care for children and teenagers aimed at preventing violence and promoting a culture of peace.
Kakuma refugee camp opened in Kenya in 1992, and JRS has provided services there since 1994. UNHCR reports the camp is home to more than 101,000 refugees. The PRM grant enabled JRS to continue to provide counseling, education, services for refugees with learning disabilities and a Safe Haven for vulnerable women and children.
In Chad, the PRM grant funded a secondary education program in two refugee camps for people who fled the ongoing violence and instability in Darfur. More than 240 students have been direct beneficiaries, and 27 teachers were supported with stipends and monthly training.
The Mai Aini refugee camp in Ethiopia is home to thousands of refugees from Eritrea. PRM support allows JRS to provide counseling and psychosocial support to children and young adults. More than 4000 people accessed the JRS library at the camp. Children in camp situations often face a bleak existence that can lead to depression and long-term problems. To combat this, JRS developed and implemented training programs in the arts and sports. These programs allow children to have something to look forward to, to play, to be children. Nearly 1,000 children took part in JRS intramural sorts programs, and more than 300 took part in drama and music classes. Additionally, 97 refugees received training in basic counseling skills, and 215 refugees participated in life skills and awareness-raising workshops.