Protesters continue to demand action on Berks family detention center
A recently announced contract to house unaccompanied children in North Philadelphia, as well as President Trump’s stated intention to bring an end to birthright citizenship, were among demonstrators’ concerns.
On Tuesday, protesters once again gathered outside Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s Philadelphia office to demand he close Berks County Residential Center, one of the country’s three family detention centers.
Protesters continue to insist that Wolf has the power to issue an emergency removal order to shut down the center, which they say is violating state and federal law. The governor maintains his hands are tied, given the contract is signed directly between Berks County and the federal government’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agency.
“Governor Wolf claims to stand with immigrants, he claims to stand with women, yet, as Governor he has allowed the Berks Family Residential Center to abuse, violate, and dehumanize mothers, fathers, and children,” a press release circulated by Jasmine Rivera of the Shut Down Berks Coalition reads. “His inaction to protect immigrant families is due to his lack of political will, not the state’s legal authority.”
Protesters also staged sit-ins at both Wolf’s Philadelphia and Harrisburg offices, during which they read aloud statements from families affected by the continued operation of the detention center.
A recently announced contract between the federal government and the Arizona-based agency, VisionQuest, to house up to 60 unaccompanied immigrant children in North Philadelphia - a contract that Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has already voiced his concerns about - was also the subject of demonstrators’ concerns. Protesters also denounced President Trump’s stated intention to put an end to birthright citizenship, the right guaranteed by the 14th amendment by which anyone born within the United States is granted citizenship.
Susan Saxe, one of yesterday’s protesters, was holding a sign in support of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Pennsylvania (HIAS), a refugee aid organization that last weekend’s mass murderer who killed 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue identified as an object of his hate.
“Today, I wanted to be particularly out here as a visible Jewish supporter of HIAS. It’s particularly important to me right now when 11 of my co-religionists were murdered by a maniac who identified us as supporting and loving the stranger as we love ourselves, which is a central tenet of all faiths,” she said.
“I want to show them I’m not afraid, that I’m out here, I’m standing in solidarity with everyone,” she added.
This Saturday, Nov. 3, demonstrators will bring their concerns to the state capitol in Harrisburg. The protest, organized by the Shut Down Berks Coalition, will feature an art installation by Michelle Angela Ortiz, entitled “Familias Separadas” or “Separated Families”.