On Monday, June 22nd, 2015, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) gave a guided tour of Berks Family Detention Center to NGO Working Groups to highlight how Berks is a “leading example” in the detention of undocumented immigrants. Local and national organizations, including Juntos, GALAEI, Migrant Power Movement, Gran Varones Project, Transgender Law Center, #Not1More, and Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, publicly opposed these efforts and believe that Berks Family Detention Center is not a model for detention and in fact oppose the idea of detaining our communities all together. We know from first hand accounts that families inside the Berks Detention Center are subject to inhumane conditions and this is not an isolated situation. We also know that LGBTQ Immigrant detention is heavily defined by its inhumane practices. LGBTQ immigrants are 15 times more likely to be assaulted or abused than other detainees. Queer liberation will not be actualized until there is an end to the physical and sexual abuse of LGBTQ detainees and immigrants. Queer liberation cannot be complete until the end of all detention centers and absolutely depends on the end to all deportations.
The answer is not to create new detention centers for immigrants that are deeply rooted with violence and further trauma, but instead to end all detention.
Berks Family Detention Center, located in Leesport, Pennsylvania, is one of three detention centers in the whole country, two of which are Dilley and Karnes Family Detention Centers located in Texas. On June 8th, ten women currently imprisoned at Berks Family Detention Center launched a work strike refusing to work for $1 a day until they and their children are released. Since then, children as young as 13 years old were put on the list and are being forced to work. Mothers report children suffering from diarrhea, vomiting, and having fevers without proper medical attention; lack of care for children suffering from depression; sexual abuse of a nineteen-year-old mother by a guard, and a three-year-old child vomiting blood for four days without receiving adequate treatment.
On April 23rd, seventeen mothers sent a letter to ICE demanding that all the families at Berks be released, but never received a response. As a result, twelve mothers launched a work strike on Monday, June 8th, 2015, protesting against their imprisonment and demanding they and their children be released immediately. These families are fleeing violence from their home countries only to be detained indefinitely in the U.S. No human being should have to suffer and be traumatized by the violent treatment that comes from being incarcerated. Berks Family Detention Center is not a model for a detention center. The suffering of the women, men, and children who are currently imprisoned at Berks is not an example for the further suffering of anyone else.
Today, queer and immigrant groups alike have joined arms to declare that we will not rest and we will not falter until there are no more deportations and no more detentions. Not one more deportation! Not one more detention center!