A Victory for Abolitionists: ICE-Run Immigration Prison Shuts Down Today

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The Street to Abolition

Right this moment, advocates throughout the U.S. are celebrating the top of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contract with Berks County in Pennsylvania, marking the long-fought closure of the embattled Berks immigration jail (formally referred to as Berks County Residential Heart). Berks is the fifth immigration jail contract to finish beneath the Biden administration, signaling the rising consensus that ICE’s immigration detention system doesn’t have to exist, and a motion of communities throughout the nation is organizing to finish it.

Our group, the Shut Down Berks Coalition, labored tirelessly for practically a decade to reveal the egregious patterns of abuse and neglect inside Berks; to free our immigrant relations, pals, coworkers and neighbors incarcerated inside; and to get the ability closed for good. We introduced collectively a various coalition of immigrant leaders, group organizers, grassroots teams, interfaith leaders, attorneys, and so many extra, and we united folks in Pennsylvania and past by means of the basic perception that regardless of the place somebody got here from or how they arrived in america, their life is of worth and they need to be handled with dignity and respect.

Berks started incarcerating immigrants in 2001 as a “household detention heart” with near 100 beds. Household detention facilities have a well-documented historical past of negligence and abuse, together with insufficient medical and psychological well being care, youngsters reducing weight, and inappropriate disciplinary techniques, together with threats to separate households if youngsters misbehave.

In 2015, the Shut Down Berks Coalition started documenting Berks’s historical past of abuse, which incorporates sexual assault, verbal abuse and excessive medical neglect, comparable to guards and medical employees ignoring cases of fever, vomiting, pores and skin rashes and respiratory diseases. Cristina, a mom previously detained together with her son at Berks who requested to be recognized solely by her first title, describes her time on the facility as “very traumatic.” “I left with a variety of despair; to at the present time I’m in remedy,” she stated.

Liliana Pérez, a member of the immigrant rights group CASA, stated she “spent a couple of month in detention and my sick daughter was by no means cared for or given the drugs she wanted whereas I used to be in jail.”

For years, mother and father and kids incarcerated at Berks bravely spoke out towards abuses and referred to as for the ability’s closure. In 2015, 10 mothers participated in a work stoppage to demand freedom for his or her youngsters, and in 2016, moms launched hunger strikes that garnered international attention and impressed mother and father trapped in different household immigration prisons. The brave voices of individuals inside had been the drumbeat to our battle to shut Berks. They’re the center of the coalition, sustaining us in an more and more anti-immigrant political local weather.

Shut Down Berks Coalition members assemble in front of Independence Hall in Philadelphia before driving to the White House.
Shut Down Berks Coalition members assemble in entrance of Independence Corridor in Philadelphia earlier than driving to the White Home.

By each impediment that we confronted, we had been resolute in our demand that Berks should shut down. We went door to door to attach with our neighbors and referred to as on county officers to cease detaining immigrants. We drew nationwide consideration to our trigger whereas all the time maintaining the mother and father and kids who had been incarcerated at Berks on the heart of our battle. Whatever the administration, from Obama to Trump to Biden, we knew that if we joined collectively as a group, we might put an finish to this dangerous facility and convey freedom to those that have endured its abuse. We aren’t alone — communities all throughout the nation are uniting to do the identical, demanding communities, not cages. For instance, one other energetic battle is happening in Taylor, Texas, the place organizers are pushing for the closure of the T. Don Hutto Residential Heart, which adopted an analogous trajectory to Berks, having as soon as been a “household detention heart” and later changing into an immigrant ladies’s jail.

“For years I’ve fought to finish the incarceration of immigrants in my yard,” says Flor González, a member chief of Make the Street Pennsylvania, a nonprofit dedicated to organizing for justice in Latinx communities, communities of coloration and working-class communities within the area. “This victory belongs to the immigrant households and ladies detained at Berks who shared their tales and demanded dignity, and to the organizers who by no means misplaced hope and by no means stopped combating for immigrant households to be free and collectively.”

Protesters demonstrate in front of the White House calling on Biden to end the ICE contract with Berks County.
Protesters reveal in entrance of the White Home calling on Biden to finish the ICE contract with Berks County.

The Biden administration is co-signing a right-wing agenda that promotes concern and demonizes immigrants by implementing new restrictive immigration policies that additional undermine the asylum course of, increasing inhumane Title 42 expulsions and growing the usage of expedited removing. However native communities are resisting and taking motion.

Detention Watch Network’s Communities Not Cages campaign is drawing new folks collectively in lots of areas nationwide to mobilize locally for the rights of immigrants. The Communities Not Cages marketing campaign amplifies long-standing area people organizing whereas constructing a nationally coordinated technique to cease the growth of ICE detention, shut down services and in the end abolish the detention system in its entirety. The marketing campaign at present helps greater than 20 different campaigns throughout the nation which are uniting to finish immigration detention. ICE’s immigration prisons are in all places, which makes federal coverage an area concern in communities nationwide.

There are 12 extra ICE-managed detention facilities with contracts expiring this 12 months, and it’s crucial that the administration comply with the lead of Berks and shut these services down now. Merely put, folks navigating their immigration case ought to give you the chance to take action with their households freely in the neighborhood — not behind bars in immigration detention. The Berks immigration jail is now empty — let’s use this momentum to close down all immigration prisons.