Babies are being held in detention. Families seeking asylum - many of which are led by moms - are being held in prison-like facilities. Human rights abuses in the name of immigration enforcement are not okay. This is not the America we seek to build. We can do, and be, better. Our voices are needed.
Pennsylvania is home to the Berks County Family Detention Center (BCRC), a facility where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement holds immigrant and asylum-seeking families. The Berks facility is currently one of three family detention centers in the United States where children as young as two-weeks-old are being held. The other two are in Diley, South Texas and in Karnes City, Texas.
Carmen - a mom from Honduras who was previously held at the center - explains what it's like:
"I came with my son who is only four years old because I feared for my life. I was threatened in my country and I could not find another solution, I came to this country on October 24th of last year and I was in the ‘freezer’ for two days and then I was sent to Karnes and I was there for 22 days, and then I was transferred to here to the Berks Center... It is very sad because we can’t go wherever we want and my son is always bored and sick. My son looks through the window of the room and always says to me ‘I want to leave’ and he says, ‘Mommy, let’s go to the park,” “Mommy, why can’t we leave this place?’ It is very difficult to answer this question to my son. He has spent his birthdays here, Christmas here, 14 months without our families being able to see us because we are in because we are in jail."
That's right! When parents flee to the United States seeking asylum with their young children from genocide and disaster, some are held in prison-like facilities like the BCRC for hundreds of days. This is beyond not okay. As moms, we will not allow this cruel policy to persist! We must stop this cruel, inhumane practice.
Places like Berks are not only harmful to children and families, but also expensive to taxpayers at an average daily cost of $343 per person.
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf and Secretary Teresa Miller of the PA Department of Human Services (PA DHS), have the power to shut the doors of BCRC and pressure ICE to release these families.
Detaining families is a national problem, and it's a reflection on who we are as a country. That's why we're calling on members across the country to speak out! Whether in Pennsylvania, Texas, or elsewhere, we say: This must stop!
We can never forget that the diversity of our nation is what makes us strong, innovative, and prosperous. These cruel and callous policies do not represent the values we teach our children -- or what we aspire to be as a nation.
Together, we can deliver on the American promise that when we say, “Liberty and justice for all,” we really do mean all.