PHILADELPHIA - Pennsylvania officials will soon be hearing another call to take action against a Berks County-owned facility that temporarily houses families that are in the United States illegally.
The Shut Down Berks Coalition has announced plans for a rally outside the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services' office in Philadelphia on Thursday. The group said it will call on the state to issue an "emergency removal order" against the Berks County Residential Center.
The 96-bed facility in Bern Township is owned by the county, but it has been leased and operated by the federal government since 2001 to house undocumented immigrant families that are going through the process of seeking asylum from their country of origin.
Those who oppose the center have expressed concerns about the treatment of those being housed there, with allegations being made of families being denied access to medical care, mental health services, adequate sleep, and information about the length of their detention.
County officials said DHS inspectors have visited the center dozens of times since 2015 and have praised it for "the excellent work performed by employees and the quality of the facility."
The center is also inspected twice monthly by both the Department of Homeland Security and Danya International, a federal government contractor, officials said.
The center itself has been the site of several high-profile protests over the years, and U.S. Sens. Bob Casey and Bernie Sanders are among lawmakers who have called for it to be shut down.
In addition to seeking action from the state, those opposed to the center have also called on the county to end its contract with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.