The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
UUSC Statement on Berks Detention Hunger Strike
August 12, 2016
Twenty-two Central American mothers, who have been in immigration detention in the Berks County Residential Center with their children aged two to 15 years, have launched a hunger strike to protest their protracted imprisonment in the Pennsylvania facility. Most of the families in Berks have been incarcerated for more than six months and many detained for one year. As a result, some of the youngest children in Berks have spent nearly 1/3 of their life in prison-like conditions. The average length of stay at Berks far exceeds the Obama administration’s stated goal to limit detention to an average of twenty days or less, a standard created to comply with recent federal court rulings.
The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, revoked Berks’ license to operate as a child residential facility in February, but local government officials who want to keep the facility open are appealing that decision.
The mothers’ statement outlines disturbing psychological damage to their children including failure to eat, thoughts of suicide, and even children using the lanyards from their ID tags to try to choke themselves because they can no longer bear life in the detention center.
In response, Tom Andrews, President and CEO of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) issued the following statement:
This is yet another example of the Obama administration refusing to acknowledge the harsh realities of their current immigration policy, a policy which incarcerates vulnerable children and families for nothing more than exercising their fundamental human right to seek asylum. UUSC supports the brave mothers at Berks and continues to call on the administration to end family detention and provide all asylum-seeking families a meaningful opportunity to seek protection.