We believe our most powerful role is simply to be present to the people we visit in detention – to recognize their full humanity, to see them face-to-face and to hear them.
El Refugio was founded in 2007 with its roots in the Detention Watch Network, which began leading groups to visit individuals detained at Stewart Detention Center. After witnessing the challenges shared by those visiting loved ones at Stewart – traveling long distances (often from other states), the trauma of family separation, and the lack of resources like hotels and restaurants in the remote city of Lumpkin, Georgia – Anton Flores brought together a group of friends to establish El Refugio. In 2010, El Refugio opened a hospitality house offering meals and lodging at no cost, as well as offering friendship and comfort to the loved ones of immigrants who are detained.
Amilcar Valencia is the Executive Director of El Refugio. Originally from La Libertad, El Salvador he has been involved in the immigrant rights movement in the state of Georgia since he arrived in the U.S. He has been helping people affected by immigration detention since 2010 and is one of the founding coordinators of El Refugio’s hospitality house. A member of the Advisory Board of Alterna Community since 2011, and a steering committee member of Georgia Detention Watch since 2010. Amilcar has the experience of working for non-profit organizations both in El Salvador and in the US. Previously he worked for the Georgia Latino Alliance for Humans Rights (GLAHR) as a community organizer and Hotline Intake Manager. He is a graduate of the University of Central America, UCA, El Salvador.