Sen. Leach condemns 'abusive' conditions at immigrant detention center
“While the Berks facility is not a state prison under my purview, it is a facility in our Commonwealth that is currently holding human beings, including children, against their will in conditions that seem negligent, abusive, and tragic," Leach said.
State Senator Daylin Leach condemned the negligent conditions at the Berks County Residential Center (BCRC), which detains immigrant families seeking asylum in the U.S. while they await their hearings.
BCRC recently lost its certificate of compliance to operate as a “child residential facility” under state law, and is currently operating with an expired license.
The Pennsylvania Department of Social Services is currently allowing the center to stay open as it appeals for a permit renewal.
The senator stated that although the legal status of the facility is in question, the facility’s conditions raise significant concern.
“As the minority chairperson of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I am intimately familiar with lawful and appropriate detention conditions and protocols,” Leach said. “While the Berks facility is not a state prison under my purview, it is a facility in our Commonwealth that is currently holding human beings, including children, against their will in conditions that seem negligent, abusive, and tragic. ICE and BCRC should act immediately to improve conditions.”
Last month, Human Rights First, an independent advocacy and action organization, published a follow-up report on several unresolved medical health issues at BCRC.
Mothers at the facility made written requests for medical help for their children, but the requests were ignored by BCRC staff, according to the report. The requests were forwarded to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The agency responded to most complaints by suggesting that detainees must withdrawal their asylum requests in order to receive treatment.
Carol Anne Donohoe, an immigration attorney who represents many families detained at BCRC, stated that dozens of concerns about the conditions at BCRC have been reported including:
• Detained children repeatedly contract pneumonia due to lack of preventive treatment.
• Children are detained for over six months, in violation of a federal court ruling.
• None of the BCRC’s mental health staff speak Spanish, the first language of many detainees.
• Children are held in rooms with unrelated adults. Notably, an eight year old girl from Guatemala was forced to share a room with interchanging, unknown adult men.
• A two year old girl who had been vomiting blood for three days without receiving medical care was eventually told by BCRC medical staff to drink water. She was returned to her room still wearing her blood-soaked shirt.