Celebrating Acompañamientos: 2024 Pillars of Change Honorees

By Deirdre Stradone, Co-Deputy Director, Immigration Intervention Project; and Melissa Chandler, Senior Immigration Specialist, Immigration Intervention Project.

For the past three years, the Immigration Intervention Project (IIP) at Sanctuary for Families has heavily relied on its supportive partnership with the Acompañamientos. Acompañamientos is a volunteer-run group that provides accompaniment and support to migrants in New York City so they do not face immigration removal proceedings alone. Acompañamientos volunteers stand in solidarity with migrants in their removal proceedings before the New York Immigration Courts and at their Order of Supervision reporting appointments with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The work of these incredible volunteers allows migrants to feel welcomed, respected, valued, and supported as they navigate the United States’ complex, confusing, and traumatizing immigration process.

Since the development of the partnership between IIP and the Acompañamientos volunteers, the Acompañamientos have provided support to asylum seekers by first referring them to IIP. If IIP is able to accept the case for either direct representation or placement with pro bono law firm partners, or if IIP is limited to only assisting with pro se representation, the Acompañamientos remain heavily involved with the case.

Volunteer lead, Ann Currier, recalls a particularly memorable moment,

“Acompañamientos members accompanied a young single mother, who lived in a shelter, to many of her hearings. She was really struggling, had been victimized [in the United States] as well. We tried to help her find assistance, but it wasn’t until a member referred her to Sanctuary that she received the legal and emotional support she needed. [Immigration Intervention Projection attorney at Sanctuary for Families] Deirdre Stradone represented her, and she won her asylum case. It would not have happened without Sanctuary”.

In the past year specifically, the Acompañamientos assisted with the representation of a total of fifteen direct/pro bono represented clients and pro se asylum seekers. Their volunteer work included assistance with filing of documents to the Immigration Court, translation of documents, preparation of relevant documents, high-quality and trauma-informed interpretation during client meetings, trial preparation and psychological evaluations, accompaniment to Immigration Court hearings and reporting appointments with ICE, assistance with the preparation and submission of application for asylum and employment authorization, and access to other brief services and Know Your Rights trainings that allow these brave survivors to understand the options available to them and prevent them from becoming a target of immigration fraud.

The work of Acompañamientos volunteers has made it possible for many migrant survivors of gender-based violence to receive access to Sanctuary’s holistic services. Often, Acompañamientos volunteers continue to stand in solidarity with migrants who are ordered removed by immigration judges and provide much-needed comfort and encouragement for migrants to not give up in their hope to live safely and with dignity. Though there are many volunteers who provide support through Acompañamientos, we want to acknowledge these leaders. The work they have provided over the years to asylum seekers, to those who are pro se, and to those who eventually become clients of the Immigration Intervention Project at Sanctuary for Families is invaluable and life-changing. Without their assistance, IIP would not be able to reach and serve the vast number of asylum seekers that we have in the past year.

Acompañamientos volunteer leaders for Sanctuary for Families:

Ann Currier
Joan Racho-Jansen
Lamia Guellati
Margaret (Peggy) Conte
Marisa Lohse
Patricia (Pat) Ferrick
Penny Babel
Santiago (Santi) Domenech

To learn more about Acompañamientos and their work, please join us on April 18th from 6:00-8:00 PM at Pillars of Change.