145 Organizations Call on Biden Administration to End Federal Use of the Berks County Residential Center

Mar 8, 2021
11:46 AM

(Public Domain)

Editor’s Note: The following media release and letter were sent to Latino Rebels on Monday morning.

LEESPORT, PA — Members of the Shut Down Berks Coalition sent a direct letter to the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas, on Friday, March 5, demanding that the Secretary sever all ties with the Berks facility as well as the Karnes and Dilley Detention Centers. Our communities do not need immigrant prisons; we need health and human services and freedom.


Friday, March 5, 2021

The Honorable Alejandro Nicholas Mayorkas
Secretary of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Cc: Honorable President Joseph R. Biden
Cc: Honorable Vice President Kamala Harris

Re: Terminate the contract between ICE and Berks County

Secretary Mayorkas,

This is the first time in many years that the Berks County Detention Center has sat empty without detained immigrant families. On the morning of February 26, 2021, we celebrated that all the detained families were freed to their loved ones and sponsors. We believe that this decision is only the first step towards ending family detention once and for all in this country. Incarcerating immigrants – whether they be families, children, or individual adults – is cruel, inhumane, abusive, and immoral.

Today we ask you to terminate the contract between the Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Berks County in order to end the federal use of the Berks County Residential Center. We unequivocally reject new plans to detain, process, incarcerate, or subject immigrant women or any other people to federal actions within the facility. We know that in other detention centers for women such as T. Don Hutto Detention Center, there has been pervasive sexual abuse, retaliation, medical neglect, and nutritional deficiency. Women in T. Don Hutto have also been subjected to inhumane control, isolation and separation from family and community.

The T. Don Hutto Detention Center was once a family detention center. Following the exposure of the atrocious abuses that happened against families there, T. Don Hutto was transitioned into a detention center for immigrant women. This did not stop abuse at the facility; it only changed who was subject to harm. Today, community groups continue to call for the complete closure of the detention center, and we echo their demands. Every human being, regardless of their color, race, and immigration status, deserves respect, dignity and equality. All detained refugee families and persons deserve freedom.

Pennsylvania elected leaders like Senator Casey, Governor Wolf, Members of the House of Representatives and the state legislature, have made clear that they do not want an immigration detention center in their backyard. Berks County residents have requested for years to convert the facility into a community health and human services center.

Secretary Mayorkas, we are seeking your leadership to fight against the dehumanization of immigrants. We raise our collective voice because we are tired of years of abuse, unfulfilled promises, inequality and dehumanization. DHS, ICE, and CBP have operated an immigration system that abuses and harms our communities. They have violated the rights of so many, ripping children from their parents’ arms, only to put them in prisons where they were often sexually abused and even “lost.” These institutions have immorally sent other children and whole families, especially Black families, on death flights back to the violence they fled, knowing full well what would be their fate.

In response to the opening of new detention sites and continuing family detention in Texas under the guise of “reception centers,” we stand unequivocally united with the detained families and immigrant communities at the Karnes and Dilley Detention Centers that are still fighting to close those prisons.

To reiterate, we ask that ICE terminate the contract with Berks County and discontinue any use of the Berks County Residential Center so that this facility can be repurposed for the benefit of the Berks County community. Our communities do not need immigrant prisons; we need health and human services and freedom.

The Shut Down Berks Coalition; coalition members include:

  1. 215 People’s Alliance

  2. ACLU PA

  3. Action Together NEPA

  4. Adeola

  5. Advocates for Immigrants and Refugees

  6. Aldea – The People’s Justice Center

  7. Amistad Law Project

  8. Animal Action of Greater Reading

  9. Arizona Justice for Our Neighbors

  10. Asian Americans United

  11. Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) Pittsburgh Chapter

  12. AUCC

  13. BarrioEdProject

  14. Berks County PA Antifa

  15. Berks Stands Up

  16. Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh (BCAP)

  17. BOYZ 2 MEN, Incorporated

  18. Bridges Faith Initiative

  19. CAIR – Philadelphia

  20. Cameroon American Council

  21. Camp White Pine/Juniata Watershed People Before Pipelines

  22. CASA

  23. Casa Juan Diego a Catholic Worker

  24. Casa San Jose

  25. Caucus of Working Educators

  26. Center for Popular Democracy

  27. Center on Immigration at Cabrini University

  28. Coalición Fortaleza Latina, PA

  29. Coalition of African Communities (AFRICOM)

  30. Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US Provinces

  31. Cumberland Valley Rising

  32. Define American at Franklin & Marshall College

  33. Delco DSA

  34. Delco NOW

  35. Detention Watch Network

  36. Doctors for Camp Closure

  37. Don’t Separate Families

  38. Eastern PA Annual Conference

  39. Every Mother is a Working Mother Network

  40. Families Belong Together

  41. First UMC: Olympia

  42. First Unitarian Universalist Church of Berks County Immigration Team

  43. Frederick Socialists

  44. Free Migration Project

  45. Freedom for Immigrants

  46. French Creek Indivisible

  47. Friendly Fire Collective

  48. Global Women’s Strike/Philadelphia

  49. Grannies Respond/Abuelas Responden

  50. Great Plains Rapid Response Immigration Team

  51. Grupo de Apoyo e Integración Hispanoamericano

  52. Harrisburg Rising

  53. Haitian Bridge Alliance

  54. Haitian Women for Haitian Refugees

  55. Haitian American Voice

  56. HIAS Pennsylvania

  57. Hope United Methodist Church

  58. IHM Sisters

  59. Immigrant Rights Action

  60. Immigration Task Force of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church

  61. Indivisible Lower Merion

  62. Japanese American Citizens League Philadelphia Chapter

  63. Jared’s Way

  64. Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), Philadelphia Chapter

  65. Juntos

  66. Justice For Our Neighbors East Texas

  67. Juvenile Law Center

  68. Keystone Progress

  69. Latino Community Center

  70. Make the Road Pennsylvania

  71. Make the  Road New York

  72. Make the Road Connecticut

  73. Make the Road New Jersey

  74. MarchOnHarrisburg

  75. Melanated Educators Collective

  76. MILPA-Movement of Immigrant Leaders in Pennsylvania

  77. Momsrising / MamásConPoder

  78. National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

  79. National Justice for Our Neighbors

  80. National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC)

  81. National Partnership for New Americans

  82. National Religious Campaign Against Torture

  83. NETWORK for Catholic Social Justice

  84. New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia

  85. Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors

  86. PA Domestic Workers Alliance

  87. Payday men’s network

  88. Pennsylvania Council of Churches

  89. Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition

  90. Pennsylvania Student Power Network

  91. Philadelphia Black History Collaborative

  92. Philadelphia Reproductive Freedom Collective

  93. Philadelphia Yearly Meeting

  94. Philly ADAPT

  95. Philly Children’s Movement

  96. Philly Neighborhood Networks

  97. Philly Thrive

  98. PhillySUN

  99. Pittsburgh LCLAA

  100. Pittsburgh UNITED

  101. PMA Bikeride

  102. Popular Alliance for Undocumented Workers’ Rights

  103. Promoters Community Volunteers

  104. RAICES

  105. Reading for 100

  106. Rise Up Doylestown

  107. Searchers Sunday School Class United Methodist Church in Lancaster

  108. SHCJ EcoSpirituality Group

  109. Side with Love Campaign

  110. Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Institute Justice Team

  111. Sisters of Mercy, Mid-Atlantic Community

  112. Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, PA

  113. Sisters of St Joseph

  114. Social Work Advocates for Immigrant and International Rights (SWAIIR) at UPenn

  115. Son Revoltura

  116. Sunrise Movement Philadelphia

  117. Sunrise Movement Berks

  118. T’ruah: the Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

  119. Teacher Action Group Philadelphia

  120. The Douty Foundation

  121. The Equity Coalition

  122. The Imani Group

  123. The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society

  124. The Way Forward

  125. Tsuru for Solidarity

  126. Tuesdays With Toomey – Harrisburg

  127. Tuesdays With Toomey – Philadelphia

  128. T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights

  129. UM-Forward

  130. Union United Methodist Church

  131. Unitarian Universalist Association

  132. Unitarian Universalist Pennsylvania Legislative Advocacy Network (UUPLAN)

  133. Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

  134. Urban Chestnut

  135. Voice of Westmoreland

  136. VietLead

  137. We The People – Pennsylvania

  138. Welcoming the Stranger

  139. West Philadelphia Friends Meeting

  140. Witness at the Border

  141. Women of Color in the Global Women’s Strike/Philadelphia

  142. Women’s Medical Fund

  143. Woori Center

  144. Working Families Party

  145. YES! (Your Empowered Sexuality)