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Demonstrators march in Philadelphia on Sept. 25 in protest of Gov. Tom Wolf's lack of action on immigration issues. Photo: David Maas / AL DÍA News
Demonstrators march in Philadelphia on Sept. 25 in protest of Gov. Tom Wolf's lack of action on immigration issues. Photo: David Maas / AL DÍA News

Philly protesters demand Governor Wolf relax immigration crackdown

While the Pennsylvania governor insists his hands are tied on matters such as the Berks County Residential Center, protesters beg to differ. 

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Protesters gathered outside Gov. Tom Wolf’s Philadelphia office on Tuesday to demand he take stronger action to help immigrants in the state.

The status of Berks County Residential Center, and the location of Gov. Wolf’s office in Philadelphia were among the most pressing concerns voiced by the demonstrators in what was the final stop of the #ChingaLaMigra tour and web series organized by the national Mijente network together with local grassroots organizations such as Juntos, the Philadelphia-based immigrant rights group.

“Today we want to highlight the fact that Governor Wolf’s satellite PA office is actually in the same building as the Philly ICE office,” Marissa Piña, a community organizer for Juntos, told AL DÍA.

“We have known now for a while that the Philly ICE office is one of the most aggressive in the country, and the fact that he is willing to share a building space with them just lets us know that he’s not prioritizing the safety of immigrants,” Piña continued.

Braving the pouring rain, protesters later marched through the city center, chanting “Tom Wolf, shut Berks down!” and “Tom Wolf shame on you!” among other rallying calls.

The Berks family detention center, located about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia in Leesport, Pa., has been the subject of increasing controversy as the federal government has imposed more hardline immigration policies since President Trump took office in 2016. Berks is one of only three detention centers in the country that holds children with their parents.

Despite the calls for action, Pennsylvania’s governor insists his hands are tied on the matter.

“Governor Wolf has already attempted to revoke the license from the Berks County Residential Center, but regardless of any action the state takes, the federal government will continue to operate this facility because the center is run by Berks County in a direct contract with the federal government,” Wolf’s office said in a statement.

In June, Philadelphia City Council approved a resolution urging Wolf to issue an emergency removal order (ERO) to shut down the center. The governor, however, maintains that there are no grounds to do so at this time.

“The Department of Human Services cannot issue an Emergency Removal Order (ERO) unless it finds misconduct by the facility that causes immediate and serious danger to the life or health of the children. DHS conducts regular unannounced inspections and has not found grounds for an ERO,” the governor’s statement added. “Further, Berks County and the federal government have said that they would continue to operate the facility even without a state license.”

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