Berks Family Detention Center’s License Revoked

Blogpost Berks Press Release

Berks Family Detention Center’s License Revoked

Pennsylvania – On January 27th Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (PA DHS) issued notice that the licensing of the Berks County Family Detention Center (BCRC) would not be renewed and officially revoked, potentially ending family detention in Pennsylvania.

The Shut Down Berks Coalition hails this action as a victory for the state and the country against the horrible abuse and rights violations immigrant families have been subjected to for far too long. The state license will be revoked as of February 21st of 2016 and in the meantime Berks County has the right to appeal. Many in the coalition wonder how Berks county, a county already in fiscal crisis, can find it in their budget to spend on a legal process given that nationally family detention has already been determined unconstitutional.

Nationally, many groups hailed the response as a step in the right direction as well and as a sign that family detention is finally ending.

Community Reactions

“ICE has been operating the center already in violation of federal law with some families being detained again for months at a time and now without a state license they will be in violation of state law.  Therefore, we demand the release of the families detained in Berks immediately, they should not endure one more day in unjust detention.” said Erika Almiron, Executive Director of Juntos.

“Revoking this license is an important first step towards closing this detention center, and, we hope, a step toward ending family detention here in Pennsylvania and nationally,” said Executive Director of PICC, Sundrop Carter.

Adanjesus Marin, Executive Director of Make the Road PA said, “As residents of Berks County we are thankful that DHS has confirmed what we always knew- that this center is unjust and should be shut down. We call on our county commissioners to stop stalling and take immediate action to stop jailing families.”

Miguel Andrade, Vice-President of the Board of Directors of GALAEI in Philadelphia said, “The news that PA DHS will revoke the Berks County Family Detention Center’s license is a monumental victory not only for the immigrant community of our state, but for the millions of immigrant families across this country. Just this past summer ICE was hailing Berks as a model detention center and were looking to it as an example for Trans and LGBQ detention. We in GALAEI stand firmly against any and all detention and see that what is happening in our state has the potential to have a domino effect nationwide and it gives us hope that one day we can end all detentions and deportations that tear apart our communities.”
“The State of Pennsylvania sent a strong message today that immigration detention facilities are no place for children, especially those that have suffered trauma,” said Wendy Cervantes, Director of the First Focus Center for Children of Immigrants. “We know that even a short amount of time in detention can have a long-term impact on a child’s mental health and overall development. All children deserve to be in an environment where they can be free to play, learn and thrive, not behind bars with the government watching their every move and rationing their food and playtime.”

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The Shut Down Berks Campaign is a grassroots coalition fighting to shut down the Berks County Detention Center immediately and end family detention. Members include Detention Watch Network, GALAEI, Juntos, #Not1More, Make the Road PA, Migrant Power Movement, PICC, UUPlan and We Belong Together.

Nutter, We Said it Before and We’ll Say it Again, No Police/ICE Collaboration

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Nutter, We Said it Before and We’ll Say it Again, No Police/ICE Collaboration

On Friday, December 11th Mayor Nutter’s administration released their proposed changes to the city’s ICE hold executive order, a historic win in separating the Poli-Migra.

The immigrant community, immigrant rights organizations and advocates have been clear for weeks that any city collaboration with ICE is unacceptable. We must stand against any use of city resources that will lead to the deportation of our community.

Read the Philadelphia Family Unity Network’s full response below.

En solidaridad,
Juntos

 

——————————————————————————————————————————–

 

 

Hon. Mayor Michael Nutter

Room 215

City Hall

Philadelphia PA 19107

 

Dear Mayor Nutter,

We are writing in response to the draft Executive Order provided to us by your administration which would rescind and replace Executive Order No. 1-14 (“Policy Regarding U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency Detainer requests”). Our concerns are not swayed by our review of this draft. We urge you again not to make any changes to your position on this issue, and to let the original order stand, in response to the unanimous call to do so.

We understand from our meeting with Deputy Mayor Gillison that your administration anticipates the number of individuals who would be subjected to this revised policy to be relatively small, and that your position is that communicating with Immigration and Customs Enforcement in these situations will contribute to public safety. However, this reasoning ignores the experiences of thousands of Philadelphia families that have been ripped apart by the deportation machine and made to feel unsafe and unstable in their own homes and communities because of the activities of ICE.

If your administration believes that the criminal legal system in Philadelphia is capable of adjudicating criminal matters, we see no reason why Philadelphia should participate in the practice of singling out certain individuals for additional punishment with permanent consequences simply due to their immigration status. This change in your policy also contradicts your position on the value of reentry and rehabilitation for returning citizens and instead forces these individuals to be permanently exiled from their families and communities. We know you value re-entry and second chances as illustrated by your signing of a comprehensive Ban the Box policy just yesterday at City Hall. With this in mind, we strongly oppose any revision to the existing order that allows city employees to report Philadelphia residents to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, full stop.

The additional provisions in this order do not allay our concerns for several reasons. While we appreciate the intention behind the creation of an advisory board, we disagree that the goal of any advisory committee on this issue should be to promote dialogue with federal immigration officials. As we have explained in detail through our previous communication, outreach materials, press conferences and in numerous meetings with your administration and previous Mayors over the past decade, the Department of Homeland Security has traumatized Philadelphia’s immigrant communities through brutal, racist practices that have destroyed families and disrupted community stability with impunity. If your office would like to create an avenue for community input on issues related to law enforcement in immigrant communities, we suggest that you start by convening community forums to solicit input on city policies related to immigration from those directly affected by those policies.

We know from experience that local efforts to address abuse at the hands of ICE will be fruitless without accountability at the federal level. This lack of accountability is a core piece of why we believe that any local participation in the deportation system should be prohibited. With regard to your request for DHS to create a hotline to accept complaints, we are unclear as to why community members would report abuse at the hands of the Department of Homeland Security to the agency which is committing the abuse. DHS currently operates several avenues where problems may be reported, none of which are effective in actually addressing concerns. Public relations efforts, such as the “public advocate” position previously created by ICE, are not effective in facilitating dialogue for the reasons described above. We do of course applaud the request for data, as ICE has been notoriously reluctant to provide information on its activities, however we don’t see why you could not obtain this information through other channels that would not require a revision of the existing Executive Order.

In accordance with the concerns raised above and in direct response to the needs and experiences of the communities we serve, if your administration insists on replacing the previous Executive Order, we call on your administration to make the following changes in place of your proposal:

  1. Enhance community safety and trust in city agencies by prohibiting the Department of Homeland Security from using city property and resources, including physical space in police districts and prisons, to interrogate Philadelphia residents and enforce civil immigration laws;
  2. Conserve city resources by prohibiting city employees, including police and prison staff, from communicating with the Department of Homeland Security to facilitate the deportation of Philadelphia residents.

Sincerely,
The Philadelphia Family Unity Network

 

The Philadelphia Family United Network members include 1Love Movement, Juntos, New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition and Victim/Witness Services of South Philadelphia.

Mayor Nutter Prioritizes Politics Over Immigrant Communities

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Mayor Nutter with Juntos member Maria Elena Cardenas in City Hall, a mother of two who had just lost her husband Pablo to a deportation just days before.

Mayor Nutter Prioritizes Politics Over Immigrant Communities

November 20th, 2015 will mark the one year anniversary of Obama’s announcement on immigration in which he created Deferred Action for Parents of American Citizens (DAPA). Despite the promise of relief from deportations for millions of families, the attack on immigrants continues. This last year has brought not only disappointment and continued deportations, but hate mongering from Presidential hopefuls that inspired anti-immigrant bills in Congress and in Harrisburg. In Pennsylvania, we have also seen the prolonged, unjust and inhumane detention of families in the Berks Family Detention Center where infants have been detained as young as 11 days old with an unlawful license and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) continues to terrorize our communities in Philadelphia and across the state.

On Thursday, November 12th, the Nutter Administration held a closed door meeting with Philadelphia immigrant rights organizations, including the Philadelphia Family Unity Network, in regards to the City’s collaboration with ICE. The Administration announced that it intends to roll back the historic Executive Order limiting City interactions with ICE, passed on April 2014, by introducing provisions that re-establish these communications.

Members of the immigrant community, the Philadelphia Family Unity Network, the Shut Down Berks Coalition and allies will be holding a press conference Monday, November 16th at 11am at City Hall to address this latest development as well as the state and national anti-immigrant attacks.

We are heartbroken that the Nutter Administration wants to reverse this groundbreaking policy and once again use local law enforcement as an arm of the federal deportation system. The proposed changes will increase the number of deportations of Philadelphia residents and will erode the trust building begun between immigrant communities and local law enforcement since the Executive Order was signed and implemented. What community members will hear is that the administration has gone back on their word and that local law enforcement will once again serve as immigration agents. These proposed provisions also contradict our City’s values of honoring the dignity of each individual, redemption, second chances, and the ability of human beings to change, by subjecting Philadelphia residents to double punishment by deporting them after they have served their time. Mayor Nutter must listen to immigrant communities, advocates, and allies, and stand strong in his support for a policy that has made our communities safer.

Only seven months ago, Nutter stood with community in City Hall, and after listening to the story of Maria Elena Cardenas, a mother of two who had just lost her husband Pablo to a deportation just days before, said, “I can’t imagine that a real elected official, someone who really believes in public service, would think that it was good policy to rip a family apart. Somehow, some way, at least to me, that appears to be completely in contradiction to this great country that we all love called the United States of America. We still have work to do.”

A month later the city made it clear it had no intention of resuming cooperation with ICE requests. In an interview with the LA Times, City Managing Director Richard Negrin said, “The broader Latino community loses confidence when they see us treating new Philadelphians that way, I think it makes us less safe (to cooperate with ICE), to be honest.”

We need public officials at the local, state and national level that will take a stand against hate toward immigrants and towards people of color. We must stand together to stop the criminalization, detention and deportation of our communities.

The Philadelphia Family United Network members include 1Love Movement, Juntos, New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition and Victim/Witness Services of South Philadelphia.
The Shut Down Berks Campaign is a grassroots coalition fighting to shut down the Berks County Detention Center immediately and end family detention. Members include Detention Watch Network, GALAEI, Juntos, #Not1More, Migrant Power Movement, PICC, UUPlan and We Belong Together.

BREAKING NEWS: Pennsylvania Strikes Major Blow to Family Detention Centers

Blogpost Berks Press Release

Pennsylvania Strikes Major Blow to Family Detention Centers

Berks Detention Center Denied Expansion and Warned of Shut Down Through Letter Issued By PA Dept. of Human Services. 

Philadelphia, PA — After months of demanding the shut down of Berks County Family Detention Center, a prison that has violated the human rights of those inside; from medical neglect of children and parents to labor abuses of the detainees and a rape of a 19 year old by a county guard, the PA Department of Human Services finally issued a statement in regards to the illegal licensing of the center. In the summer of 2014 an institutional sexual assault occurred inside the walls of the center of a 19 year old in front of other detainees, which prompted the attention of many attorneys and community groups to react and demand answers. This was then followed by the rampant medical neglect of children which led to a child vomiting blood for four days before receiving proper medical attention and after much labor abuse at the hands of the center, in which they paid women $1 a day to clean the facilities, by June of 2015 20 detainees launched a work strike until they were released. All the time PA DHS stood by and watched, never issuing a report on these violations. Today is a major victory, as they finally have recognized what this coalition has said for months, Berks County Family Detention Center should have their license revoked.

Outside the detention center the Coalition to Shut Down Berks has held rallies with hundreds of community members demanding the closure while inside families organized demanding their freedom. Protests, concerts and vigils were held and in September coalition members (which include Juntos, GALAEI, Pennsylvania Immigrant and Citizenship Coalition, UUPlan, Migrant Power Movement, Sheller Center for Social Justice, We Belong Together, #Not1More, Detention Watch Network and Human Rights First ) delivered the Human Rights First report “Family Detention in Berks County Pennsylvania,” which details the rampant abuses occurring inside, to PA DHS offices in Philadelphia with an official ask to shut down the center immediately.

“This affirms the demands we have made to shut down the Berks Family Detention Center and shows that DHS should have never licensed the facility to begin with. It also shows that Texas DHS should not be licensing the detention centers and that Berks is not the model institution ICE has claimed it to be. How can it be with all the human rights abuses occurring inside? What it doesn’t show is that ICE has any intention of changing their behavior towards our families. Ted Dallas does not need to wait until February to release our families or to shut down Berks. We say not one more day in detention for our families and if he doesn’t shut it down immediately, we will see him as we march in Harrisburg in November ” said Erika Almiron, Executive Director of Juntos.

Jennifer Lee, Legal Director of the Sheller Center for Social Justice of Temple University Beasley School of Law, said, “The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services has aided in the confinement of immigrant children and families. It has done so by licensing the BCRC, ironically, under rules enacted to “protect the health, safety, and well-being of children.” We call on Ted Dallas, Secretary of PA DHS, to end State support for family detention by immediately revoking the BCRC’s license, releasing immigrant families, and closing the facility.”

The Shut Down Berks Campaign is a grassroots coalition fighting to Shut Down Berks Family Detention Center immediately and end family detention. Members include Juntos, GALAEI, Pennsylvania Immigrant and Citizenship Coalition, UUPlan, Migrant Power Movement, Sheller Center for Social Justice, We Belong Together, #Not1More, Detention Watch Network and Human Rights First. We want to also thank all the pro-bono attorneys who have worked tirelessly to represent the families in detention or in deportation proceedings; Caitlin Barry, David Bennion, Jackie Kline, Bridget Cambria and Carol Anne Donahue.

Organizations who have Signed on to the Shut Down Berks Campaign

1love Movement

Action AIDS

ACTION United

Buxmont UUF Peace and Justice Committee

Casa San Jose

Cambria and Kline Law

Central American Resource Center (CARECEN)

Coalition of African Communities in Philadelphia (AFRICOM)

Comite de Lucha Pro Licencia, Harrisburg

Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Department of Anthropology – Georgetown University

Detention Watch Network

Disciples of Christ Refugee and Immigration Ministries

Families for Freedom

GALAEI

Georgia Detention Watch

Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights

Grassroots Leadership

Human Rights First

Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights

Jarochicanos

JJ Tiziou Photography

Juntos

Keystone Progress

Latino Advocacy

Law Office of Karenina Wolff, Esq

Leadership Conference of Women Religious

Michelle Angela Ortiz

Mina Mart

Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment

Migrant Power Movement

National Korean American Service and Education Consortium

National Justice for Our Neighbors

National Latino Network: Casa de Esperanza

New Sanctuary Coalition of NY

New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia

Not1more

NWDC Resistance

Pathways

PCCY

Pennsylvania NOW

Philadelphia Family Unity Network

Philadelphia JACL

PICC

Pittsburgh LCLAA

Philadelphia Student Union

Raices

Restaurant Opportunity Center of Philadelphia

Sisters of the School of Notre Dame

Society of the Holy Child Jesus

South Philly Barbacoa

Taller Puertoriqueno

Taqueria Los Jimadores

Taquitos de Puebla

Therapy Center of Philadelphia

Tortilleria La Familia LLC

Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

US Human Rights Network

UUPLAN

Victim/Witness Services of South Philadelphia

We Belong Together

William Way Community Center