Pennsylvania – Late last week the Shut Down Berks Coalition and Aldea -The People’s Justice Center received confirmation that ICE had resumed immigrant imprisonment at the Berks County Residential Center sometime in January 2022. We call on the Biden administration to immediately release these women and permanently close the Berks immigrant prison. ICE has used the Berks family prison for over 20 years to incarcerate immigrant families, including children as young as 14 days old. After years of community resistance, the Biden administration released all people incarcerated at Berks on February 26, 2021. In September 2021, despite strong opposition from community members, ICE and the Berks County Commissioners reached an agreement to reopen and repurpose the Berks County Residential Center to detain women as young as 18 years old. Today, the facility is incarcerating as many as 65 immigrant women and girls.
Detaining women at this facility is dangerous and cruel. ICE has an established history of abuse and violence against women in its custody. Berks is the same facility where a staff member was convicted for raping a 19 year old mother in 2014. In a 2018 report, there were 1,224 instances of reported sexual assault in ICE detention. At other immigrant prisons for women, such as the T. Don Hutto Detention Center (Hutto) – which was once a family prison– there has been pervasive sexual abuse, retaliation, medical neglect, and nutritional deprivation. Further, ICE was widely condemned after at least 19 women in ICE custody at the Irwin County Detention Facility in Georgia were forced to receive hysterectomies and other non-consensual procedures.
President Biden’s stated priorities endorse an immigration system that “welcomes immigrants, keeps families together, and allows people across the country—both newly arrived immigrants and people who have lived here for generations—to more fully contribute to our country.” However, his actions betray this promise and perpetuate the cruelty employed by the Trump administration as a tool for deportation. Detention is unnecessary, immoral, and results in family separation and isolation. The Shut Down Berks Coalition and its members, including Aldea – The People’s Justice Center, call on the Biden administration to immediately release these women and permanently close the Berks immigrant prison. Join us in demanding that President Biden #ShutDownBerks: Tweet @POTUS, call the White House 202-456-1111, and email email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org!
The Shut Down Berks Coalition is a group of organizations and individuals fighting to close the Berks County immigrant prison in Pennsylvania and end the practice of imprisoning immigrant families in the U.S.
Aldea – the People’s Justice Center is a non-profit legal services organization that offers universal free representation to persons detained at the Berks County Residential Center and other persons detained in Pennsylvania, and provides free and low-cost services to the most vulnerable members of the immigrant community nationwide.