Three Ways To Write

Letters can help people in immigration detention cope with isolation and stress, including the stresses of what they experienced in their home countries (violence, war, trafficking, etc.) as well as the stresses of not knowing when their detention will end.

Your letters can affirm an individual’s humanity in the midst of dehumanization.  You will also learn a great deal about the realities our fellow humans are facing and how our country is responding. Our Letter Writing Guidelines will help you get started.

There are three different ways you can send a message of hope:

1. Become A Weekly Volunteer Letter Writer

2. Send a Quick Note

3. Host a Letter/Postcard Writing Event

  • Get a group of friends together or organize a letter writing event for your school, church or community organization.
  • Learn about immigration detention and the life of detained refugees and migrants in the U.S. Start by reading our report.
  • Follow the Letter Writing Guidelines and mail your final letters and postcards directly to us at 6549 Mission Gorge Road #219, San Diego, CA 92120. We’ll make sure they are distributed to detainees.
  • Contact us if you would like an organizer to give a short video chat introduction or speak at your event.

Printable Event Instructions



Get involved locally

Join the Detainee Allies Organizing Committee

If you’re in San Diego, we can always use more help at our Monday night organizing meetings. If not, we also welcome Virtual Volunteers. We can always use more help from stuffing envelopes to strategizing direct action to building our internal data system. Let us know a little about your interest, skills and availability and we will happily put you to work!

Start A Detainee Allies Chapter

There is probably a detention center near where you live.  The immigrant detention industry is enormous.  Use this map, researched by experts at Columbia University, to find it. Then contact us and we’ll share our methods and what we’ve learned and help you get started.



Get Educated, Get Organized, And Take Action To #EndDetention

Detainee Allies began with a house meeting of friends that became a grassroots effort to provide human connection to detained migrants and refugees. As our effort grew, we discovered ways to amplify these voices to push for real change. Have faith that you can organize a small grassroots effort that will be powerful. Here are some ways to get started!


Educate yourself, and use social and traditional media to make these points:

Refugees Are Human Beings

Many of the people arriving at our southern border are fleeing death threats, assault, rape, and torture in their home countries.  They are mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Some are college-educated; some are veterans who have been targeted for their service; some are LGBTI people who are targeted for their sexuality. We know their individual stories.  We ask our friends and neighbors to listen.


Refugees need shelter, food, medical care, information, and support.  They should not be imprisoned, harmed, or further persecuted. History will judge us as to how we respond to them.  We call on the UN, the United States, and our federal, state, and local officials to provide resources and protection to refugees at our southern border and to end refugee detention now.


Reach out to friends and neighbors who you believe want to act as well.  Hold a house meeting and educate yourselves about the caravan and immigration policy. In this quickly shifting humanitarian situation, we can put aside our fear and hesitation to act directly in compassion and courage. Research what is happening locally and within your own state and work in community with existing advocates and organizations. Can you join there efforts or take on a challenge no one is working on yet? Find where you feel your efforts can help and take action.


#PassAB32 | #PassAB33

Humanitarian volunteers and researchers at San Diego State University have received hundreds of letters from refugees and other migrants being held – some for 18 months or longer – at Otay Mesa Detention Center, near San Diego, California, which is operated by the for-profit company CoreCivic. They report inhumane conditions including insufficient and contaminated food, inadequate health care, abuse, isolation, and forced labor at $1-a-day. California Assembly bills 32 and 33 call for the state to stop doing business with CoreCivic altogether.

Contact your state legislators and ask them to pass AB 32 & 33! Tell them we also need to #FireTrinityServices (the company who provides the contaminated food)


Call on CALPERS and CALSTRS to engage with CoreCivic and demand end of detention for refugees and humane treatment according to California state standards, or to divest entirely.  If you are a state or represented employee, talk to your union local to join the effort and educate its members. Learn background, then sign and share our ActionNetwork petition.


Write a letter to Attorney General Xavier Becerra to visit Otay Mesa and read the accounts of refugees held in detention.  The California Department of Justice has been charged by the State Legislature with exercising oversight over detention centers in California and is required to submit a comprehensive report of its findings to the state lawmakers by March 2019.

Call on him to hold Core Civic accountable to California standards for human rights in detention.

Copy your assembly members, state senators, and congressional representatives.

Find Your CA State Assembly Members

Find Your CA State Senators

Find Your US Congressperson

Contact Senator Feinstein

Contact Senator Harris