State lawmakers call for end to family deportations from Berks ICE facility

Legislators ask for release of families, children in face of COVID pandemic, unsanitary conditions

HARRISBURG, Dec. 2 – State lawmakers are asking federal officials to correct an injustice and recognize the human rights of several families by ending deportations and releasing the children and families held at the Berks County Immigrations and Customs Enforcement facility.

In a letter to Tony Phan, the acting director of ICE, members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus and Welcoming PA Caucus implored him to provide a stay of deportation and release 23 children and 28 families. Lawmakers said they were especially concerned that the ongoing pandemic could exacerbate cramped and unsanitary conditions at the center and result in a human rights crisis.

“These children and their families were denied the right to seek asylum under Trump administration policies that federal courts have since ruled were unlawful. If your office completes plans to deport these families, they face likely death or torture in their home country,” the lawmakers wrote. “Family detention goes against our most fundamental values as a society. And it is unconscionable to not correct this injustice.”

In addition to calling for the release of the children and families, the legislators also asked Gov. Tom Wolf to issue an Emergency Removal Order to compel their release, and called upon members of the U.S. Congress to investigate the practice of family deportation and to seek other solutions.

A copy of the full letter can be found by following this link.