Shut Down Berks Coalition goes to the White House, demands closure of Berks County Detention Center
Biden has not followed through with his campaign promise to shut down the immigrant women’s detention center in Reading.
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It has a long-standing and known idea that political leaders and presidents do not deliver on their campaign promises. When they do not deliver and fail to identify the very subjects and issues that they said they would during the campaign trail, it makes voters and supporters feel that their words are not only not heard, but ignored.
These issues can only be ignored for so long before people will begin to protest, and rally to reaffirm their stance and voice displeasure with those leaders. Pressure and demands can always do more when those leaders don’t do anything.
On Thursday, Aug. 25, Berks County residents, immigrant families, and members of the Shut Down Berks Coalition headed to D.C. to rally and protest at The White House. Their issue — the Berks County Detention Center, while not housing migrant children anymore, is still open and now houses immigrant women.
Protestors demanded Biden follow through on his campaign promises that included shutting down the notorious immigrant women’s detention center that sits just outside Reading, Pennsylvania, and take away the damaging Trump-era immigration policies. In Pennsylvania, more immigrants are incarcerated under Biden than Trump’s time in the White House.
As of now, three women have been detained for over a month now with rumors rumbling that a group of an additional 40 women are expected, according to a spokesperson for the Shut Down Berks Coalition, Adrianna Torres-García.
The coalition along with residents of Berks County have protested and demanded for years that Biden shut down the immigrant detention facility as well as release all the women currently incarcerated there in what is being seen as a civil and human rights violation. It’s a facility that has seen many a sexual, and physical abuses, and it follows a pattern of abuse that occurs too frequently at these facilities.
“We have people from Reading, Pennsylvania, from Philadelphia, from New York and from the D.C. area. Everybody's here, we're right in front of the White House. And we are going through with our speaker's agenda,” Torres-García told AL DÍA from the protest’s front lines.
Members of the impacted as well as organizational leaders will speak at the rally. Some of them include, Alexandra Roa of We Are CASA, Ashley Tellez of Juntos, Jahsiah Montrevil of Families for Freedom, and Lorena Arias of Make the Road, Pennsylvania.
“People are energized and happy to be here. And angry that we still have to protest for something like this. That we still have to come out here and protest,” said Torres-García.
She also said it’s another in a long line of protest actions from the group over the last six years. The group also hosts monthly protests in front of the center.
The Berks County Detention Center has functioned as many different facilities. Back in 2014, ICE began to use what was then the Berks County Family Residential Center to jail and detain immigrant families. This includes children, and even infants as young as 14 days old. It would be more than seven years later when Biden emptied out the detention facility in February of 2021.
Nearly six months later, it would reopen. ICE and the Berk’s County Commissions agreed to reopen the facility, and remodel its way of operation. This time, it would operate as a detention center for immigrant women, which is what the coalition is fighting to shut down now.
Since January of this year, the facility has incarcerated women in the double digits.
With an election coming up, Berks County Detention Center’s future still hangs in the balance, and is still, unfortunately, a political chip in Pennsylvania to garner support.
“We have been protesting for this for a long time. We felt that it was necessary to come directly to the White House because it didn't seem like Biden was understanding how important Pennsylvania is for the midterms and for the upcoming elections,” said Torres-García. “He is not listening to us. We're here to expect him to pay attention to us and listen to the demands of the people. The people don't want a prison in their backyard.”