Immigrant advocates demand release of families

PrisonA number of immigrant advocacy groups have formed a coalition to demand the release of dozens of women and children currently being held in a detention center in Berks County, claiming human rights abuses. The families have been held in the Berks County Residential Center since they illegally entered the United States and claimed asylum, with some having been there for almost a year.

The county-run facility has also been the focus of attention from human services officials in Pennsylvania, who are currently contemplating its future. The Shut Down Berks Campaign released a statement on Friday in which it said that the country government needed to “stop participating in [the] painful and inhumane practice” of keeping families in prison, pointing to the documented rape by a guard of a mother in 2015, claims of families being medically neglected, and labor abuses in the center’s work program.

Immigrant advocates claim that the Berks center is the newest battlefield in the debate over the treatment of undocumented families that come to the United States to flee the government corruption and gang violence endemic in their homelands.

The advocates intend to picket the office of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement at 16th and Callowhill Streets today and then head to the center. Critics say the women and children being held in custody could have been released on bail, or even with monitoring supervision, to ensure they show up for immigration court rather than being held in the center.