Washington, Feb 1 (IANS) The Burke County immigration detention center in Leesport, Pennsylvania, has been closed for good after an eight-year campaign by immigrant advocacy groups who warned that more immigration prisons should be closed.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contract with Berks County to lease the approximately 100-bed center expired on Tuesday, January 31.
The closure represents a victory for defenders of migrants, who have launched a campaign since 2015, when a 19-year-old mother became a victim of sexual abuse at the centre.
CASA Pennsylvania director Daniel Alvale said in a statement that as we celebrate the closure of the Burks Detention Center, “we must recognize the abuse and violence occurring in detention centers across the country.”
“The closing of Burke is just the beginning of a future campaign to end detention,” he said.
The Burke facility, which opened in 2001, was once one of three sites in the United States where asylum seeker families were being held, and became the target of protests and criticism for its closure.
The Joe Biden administration released all those held at Burke in February 2021. But in early 2022 it resumed its use and became a facility that housed only migrant women and their children awaiting asylum or deportation.
Martha Hernandez, organizer of CASA, a group with more than 125,000 members in 46 states, said, “It was heartbreaking to learn about the abuse and violence going on at Burke.” “No one should have to put up with the abuse that happened in that detention center.”
Meanwhile, Liliana Perez of the Casa organization said that “this victory feels like a dream.”
“I feel happy, satisfied and free,” she said. “I spent more than a month in detention and my sick daughter was never taken care of or given the medicine she needed in prison. This detention center caused a lot of suffering.”