Activists claim Berks County’s commissioners refused to inform the public of their plans to use the facility under a mysterious federal contract.
Immigration activists have filed a lawsuit to learn about the future of Berks County’s detention center, which has long served to keep undocumented foreigners behind bars.
According to The Philadelphia Enquirer, Berks was notorious for housing immigrant families. But after President Joe Biden issued a series of immigration orders, Berks’ intent remains pending.
While the facility is no longer hosting migrant families, activists say Berks County and its commissioners avoided asking questions about their future plans for long-term prison.
Although some locals have suggested converting the prison into a coronavirus vaccination center or opioid treatment center, the federal government may have other plans.
Despite Biden’s immigration reforms, an undisclosed Homeland Security official told the Washington Post that there are plans to turn Berks into a detention center for migrant women.
However, Berks County has refused to make public comments. In February, district officials voted 2-1 for a letter of support for a US Immigration and Customs proposal on the future of the detention center.
Female inmates in a maximum security cell. Image via Wikimedia Commons / User: Officer Bimblebury. (CCA-BY-4.0).
But the commissioners have not invited the public to the meeting, and they have not released details of what exactly is ICE’s plan.
The lawsuit, notes The Philadelphia Enquirer, was filed by Make the Road Pennsylvania.
Armando Jimenez Carbarin, an organizer of Make the Road, told the media that neither he nor his colleagues wanted to see the old detention center, which has again held migrants.
“We do not want immigrants to be detained there,” he said during a press conference on Tuesday. “We want something that is not against immigrants, something that helps the community.
“We don’t want ICE to be in the back yard of Reading and Berks Counties,” added Jimenez Carbarin.
Similarly, Make the Road issued another statement explaining the group’s belief that Berks County is acting undemocratically.
“The residents of Berks consider it completely undemocratic that the commissioners refuse to be transparent and accountable to their constituents regarding the content of the letter of support [to ICE]”Said Make the Road.
The investigator notes that activists have long complained about the Berks detention center, which had a reputation for detaining immigrants in “cruel” conditions.
One reason for opening Berks, according to the investigator, was former President Donald Trump’s belief that undocumented immigrants would appear on court hearings if they weren’t held behind bars. In fact, Trump went so far as to say that only 2% of migrants who were released to friends, family members, or sponsors ever returned to immigration tribunals.
In reality, the number is far higher – the investigator cites studies showing that more than 80% of undocumented immigrants who have been granted temporary release return to their court appointments.
The lawsuit, the investigator adds, is not intended to prevent Berks County from entering into contracts with ICE. Instead, only the commissioners are asked to release their plans.
Meanwhile, Jimenez has said to Carbarin that “the fight is not over” even though the Berks detention center is now empty.
“More families can still be brought back,” he said. “We all have to hold the Biden administration accountable and demand it [the Department of Homeland Security] Ending family custody across the country. “
Immigration activists are suing Berk’s commissioners over plans for the ICE internment camp
Lawyers and civic groups keep pressure on the Berks Family Residential Center