Denver's Casa de Paz welcomes newly released migrants with fresh clothes, food and compassion
Sarah Jackson said she was “just living my perfect little life” when she went with her church to visit the U.S./Mexico border eight years ago. “I didn’t know immigrant detention centers existed … it was not even a blip on my radar.” It would become a trip that could not only change the course of her life, but the lives of many others. She just didn’t know it yet.
For six years, Jackson has operated Casa de Paz—House of Peace—offering recently released Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees “a place to stay as well as food, clothing and transportation. It is also Jackson’s home, and guests are treated like family.” Outside, there’s no signage on the two story house in order to attract as little negative attention as possible. Inside, guests are welcomed with fresh clothes—“guests are released from the detention center wearing the outfit they were arrested in”—nutritious food, toiletries, even cell phones.
Jackson’s has welcomed more than 1,400 people from nearly two dozen countries over the years, and guests can stay for up to three days. Oftentimes, they already have relatives in the United States they are “eager to meet up with,” The Guardian reports. But even three days can make all the difference for a vulnerable asylum seeker leaving traumatic detention.
“Most of us who have passed through the border and the detention centre have a bad impression of America and are not expecting any good from anybody,” an African asylum seeker currently staying at Casa de Paz told The Guardian. “You are released into this strange place with no money in a country that has treated you poorly. Then you have this home where there’s free food, clothes, everything.”
Jackson, “who has a day job selling software to churches,” has raised funds for Casa de Paz through volleyball tournaments, as well as relying on donations and volunteers. “Jackson is about a third of the way through raising $400,000 to buy a bigger house next to the detention center. Without rent to pay, the money from the volleyball league can go towards paying someone to staff the house all day, which will allow Casa de Paz to help more people.”
She credits her visit to the border long ago, along with hearing the stories of vulnerable people who fled their home countries for their lives, with pushing her in her mission to welcome the stranger with dignity and respect. “Over and over the Bible talks about treating the sojourner or immigrant as one of your own,” she said. “That’s not how we treat our own.”