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

Philadelphia Stands United, Rejects Hate Mongering That Results In Broken Families

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Community Based Healing not Unconstitutional Rollbacks

By the Philadelphia Family Unity Network

The recent killing of Kathryn Steinle in San Francisco by Francisco Sanchez is a terrible and senseless tragedy. The pain her family must be experiencing is unimaginable, and they should be afforded the respect and decency of mourning in their own chosen way.

As a coalition of organizations with over a decade of experience working with survivors of violence, we had no intention of inserting our voices into such a heartbreaking and private moment. After repeated requests from the press and local politicians who have been misinformed by those who choose to exploit this moment for political gain, we felt the need to briefly address some misconceptions.

The Philadelphia Family Unity Network (PFUN) is a coalition that worked with the Mayor’s administration and local advocates to successfully end all Philadelphia Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) holds in April 2014. We are immigrant community leaders and young people, documented and undocumented, allies, grassroots immigrant organizations, advocates for the needs of victims and witnesses to crimes, people of faith, leaders focused on the intersection between incarceration and deportation, and policy advocates.

We hold a community-based vision of safety, healing, and justice. We are called by a shared belief that our community’s healing comes from addressing root causes of violence, that we need to end the criminalization of our communities and that all people, regardless of immigration status or criminal conviction should remain with their chosen communities. While we hold people accountable to their actions and crimes, we recognize that violence stems from trauma, from poverty caused by devastating economic policies, war, forced migration, systematically segregated and underfunded communities and racist immigration policies and a criminal justice system that separates and destroy families and communities.

Secure Communities and the ICE holds program are failed policies. ICE holds have been repeatedly found to be unconstitutional, and to be a driving force behind the breakdown in trust between immigrant residents and local government. Communities organized to fight these policies across the country, and they succeeded. To go back and repeat these destructive policies only opens up possibilities for more abuses against our communities while avoiding the deeper causes of violence, as well as leaving our city vulnerable to lawsuits for violations of people’s rights. We need policies that reflect our values as a society, that honor our community’s dignity, that respects the diversity of our lives and are grounded in the belief of redemption.

 

The tragedy of Kathryn Steinle’s death should not be manipulated by those who see this as an opportunity to push a political agenda. Creating safer communities is a goal shared across the divisions some seek to exploit. PFUN will continue to push for meaningful reform and dialogue toward this end.

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The Philadelphia Family Unity Network (PFUN) is a grassroots coalition that ended all ICE holds in Philadelphia in April 2014. PFUN is 1 Love Movement, Juntos, New Sanctuary Movement of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, and Victim/Witness Services of South Philadelphia.

 

Juntos leaders protest Congressional Hispanic Caucus

Juntos leaders protest Congressional Hispanic Caucus

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On October 2nd, Juntos leaders went to D.C. to participate in protests demanding that the President take executive action on immigration now. Juntos members included Maritza Guzman and Blanca Colin, Norristown residents fighting to free their husbands from detention. That evening the Congressional Hispanic Caucus was honoring President Obama at their annual gala. Just a few weeks prior that had publicly demanded that the President take executive action before thanksgiving but reversed their stance after meeting the administration. The result is over 60,000 deportations between Obama’s decision to not take action, which he announced in September, and the elections Nov. 4th. Juntos leaders joined other members of the immigrant community in protests outside the gala while NDLON  member and DACA recipient, Blanca Hernandez, attended the gala and confronted the President on his lack of action. The message was heard clearly by the President, we will continue to fight to end deportations until everyone in our community is safe.

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