“Last night I was hungry, and I found food for myself. I was thirsty, and I found something to drink. But what about my neighbors who can’t fend for themselves?” This thought inspired Sarah Jackson to start Casa de Paz, an organization that offers shelter, meals, plane or bus tickets, rides, and emotional support to immigrants released from the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Aurora, Colorado. Her mission? “To reunite families separated by immigrant detention, one simple act of love at a time.”

Sarah founded Casa de Paz in 2012, after she traveled to the US-Mexico border. The stories she heard and the individuals she met there motivated her to do more. She started hosting recently released detainees in her tiny two-bedroom apartment across from the detention center until she raised enough money to rent a bigger house.

Preparing dinner at Casa de Paz, Aurora, Colorado Photograph courtesy of Colorado Sun

Tucked in a cul-de-sac fifteen minutes’ drive from the detention center, Casa de Paz blends in among the many suburban homes. Visitors cross a doormat with the word “Home” emblazoned on it, the letter “o” replaced by a heart. The house is decorated with photos of travelers who have passed through. Two bedrooms on the first floor are fitted with bunk beds and closets filled with backpacks and donated supplies.

With the help of hundreds of volunteers, Casa de Paz has hosted over three thousand guests from seventy-nine countries, helping them reunite with family or find a place to go next. Sarah’s book, The House that Love Built (Zondervan), tells the story in full.

When Covid put a stop to in-person visits at the detention center, volunteers decided to write letters. The Casa de Paz Pen Pal program now has people writing to detainees in over thirty detention centers across the country.

When people are released from the detention center, Casa on Wheels is waiting for them directly outside. The van is stocked with food, drinks, and other necessities. Volunteers start making plans to get them safely to their final destinations.

Despite the pandemic, Casa de Paz was able to raise enough money last year to purchase a larger home across from the detention center. This will now be the hub for all they do, including overseeing las casitas, “little homes,” throughout the city. “The needs of displaced immigrants are only growing,” Sarah observes. “A much wider network of welcome is needed.”

It is love that drives Sarah and the volunteers. “Detention is sterile. It is unwelcoming. It is cold. It is a prison. Casa de Paz is the complete opposite. Guests can feel like they are at home, even if just for a short while. Many guests have walked into our home, stopped, and looked around and said something to the effect of, ‘I feel the love that is in this place.’ I love that. It’s what keeps all of us going.”

Find out more about Casa de Paz, and about Welcome Strangers, the award-winning twenty-minute documentary short about Casa de Paz.