Crying out in prayer and in song , protesters stood in solidarity outside the Berks Family Residential Center in support of immigrant children and their families who are living there. "The mission here is to let folks know in the detention center they have not been forgotten," organizer Jane Camp said.
They're calling for the government to shut down the detention center and turn it into a treatment facility for opioid addiction. The Bern Township facility is one of three such detention centers in the country, leased by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "These people went through incredibly harrowing journeys and it seems absurd that we as a state are paying to imprison children," protestor Roger Kligerman said.
This vigil comes just a couple weeks after Pennsylvania Auditor General, Eugene Depasquale announced that he'll be reviewing how these detainees are treated. He cited former reports in which detainees have described inadequate healthcare, sexual abuse, and other human rights violations. However, Berks County Commissioner, Christian Leinbach says the people inside the center are well taken care of, and the county has nothing hide. "We have 20 plus staff on that facility, the berks county intermediate unit provides high tech classroom," Leinbach explained. DePasquale plans to announce the results of his report later this year. Protestors say, they won't stop, until these families are free. "We believe in welcoming the stranger and sojourner," Camp explained.