Health Concerns at the Berks Family Detention Center
In summer 2014 the Obama Administration announced their intention to detain large numbers of asylum-seeking families from Central America as part of a new policy aimed at deterring other families and children from migrating to the United States. The Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania, which has been in operation for 15 years, is one of three family immigration detention centers where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detains families. While ICE has presented family detention as a “humane alternative” to preserve family unity during immigration proceedings, a growing body of research shows that detention, even for limited periods of time, is harmful to the health and development of children.
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (PA DHS) licensed the Berks County facility as a child residential facility for dependent and delinquent children. However, in October 2015, PA DHS issued a decision that the license, which expires on February 21, 2016, would not be renewed due to the fact that the facility holds asylum-seeking families, as opposed to only children, as the license allowed. The facility has appealed the decision to not renew its license to the Bureau of Hearings Appeals—an administrative body within Pennsylvania’s Department of Human Services.