staying connected with immigrants after they have been released

By Bill Everett, VIDA founding and Lead Coordinator

We have gotten a lot of questions about how to maintain connections

with our friends after they have been released. They may have been

released because they were paroled or they were able to bond out

or they were deported back to their home country.

I would like to share what I personally have done. I have maintained

communication with 7 who have been released (4 have been paroled

and 3 have been deported to Cuba, Honduras, Democratic Republic of

Congo). For the 4 in the US, 2 are in New York, 1 in Florida and 1 in

Texas. I gave them my mobile phone number while they were still in

detention. After being released, some have reconnected with me

by texting with WhatsApp app and one through calls and texts

with Google Messenger. It is interesting how ubiquitous mobile phones

are around the world and how savvy my friends are in using WhatsApp.

I use Google Translate extensively. For those who do not speak English,

I will text something in English and then send another text in Spanish

or French. When they text me back in Spanish or French, I will translate

them back into English. I keep Conversation Journals for each,

selecting/copying and pasting our text messages (and translations) in

the Journal. With my friends from Sri Lanka and Nepal, I do the same

with translating to Tamil and Nepali respectively. Unfortunately, they do

not have access to a Tamil or Nepali keyboards. Fortunately, their English

is good enough that I can make out what they are saying. For the one

person that I call, they speak English. We have set parameters that I

will call as specified times, at other times we freely exchange text messages

via Google Messenger.

All in all, it has worked out well for me and my friends.