North America

Photo: CWS


Port Isabel, Texas • El Centro, CA • El Paso, Texas • Florence, AZ • Miami, FL • Batavia, NY


USD $161,000

Religious Services

Each year the U.S. government detains more than 400,000 men, women and children for immigration violations. While being in violation of immigration laws is not a crime, it is a civil violation for which immigrants go through a process to see whether they have a right to stay in the U.S. This can be a lengthy process and families can at times stay many months in a detention center awaiting a court date.

While families wait, CWS is contracted to provide spiritual care to detainees of all faiths in the government-administered immigration detention centers. The role of the program is to provide non-judgmental, caring support in the lives of detainees. Religious Services Program staff seek to be models of compassion and respect for each person’s spiritual needs. The program operates in six distinct detention centers located across the United States.

CWS chaplains and volunteers minister to immigrants of various faiths, including Christians, Jews, Muslims, Bahá’is, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Rastafarians, Zoroastrians, Sufis, Janists, Shintos, Unitarian Universalists, Pagans, people with indigenous faiths, those of other faiths, agnostics and atheists. The program provides for both individual and group religious worship, practice and prayer services, as well as clearance of special diets required for religious practices. CWS chaplains also take part in spiritual care for detainees along with crisis intervention and religious education.

In FY 2014, CWS was able to extend the Religious Services Program to a family residential center in Artesia, New Mexico, that opened in response to the influx of unaccompanied minors at the southern U.S. border. RSP chaplains are being deployed to the center in order to provide spiritual care to newly arrived families and children. The chaplain was also able to train volunteers from the local community to help facilitate religious services for the growing number of detainees.