Berks County facing lawsuit over plans for immigrant family detention center

Written by on June 8, 2021

Berks County facing lawsuit over plans for immigrant family detention center

By  Anthony Orozco / WITF

June 8, 2021

Berks County Residential Center. (Laura Benshoff/WHYY)

Civic and nonprofit legal groups are suing the Berks County Commissioners for not sharing information about plans for an immigrant family detention center.  

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The lawsuit stems from county commissioners voting to send a letter of support to federal immigration authorities for a proposed use of the Berks County Family Residential Center near Leesport.

The board did not publicly discuss the matter before taking the vote in late February. 

Adriana Zambrano, a program coordinator at Aldea–The People’s Justice Center, an immigrant advocacy legal group and a plaintiff party in the lawsuit, says commissioners did not give the public a chance to learn about the proposed plans for the county-owned Berks County Family Residential Center.

“The county commissioners failed to inform the public about their deliberations regarding their support for ICE’s plan,” Zambrano says.  

The public should have had an opportunity to comment on the U.S.Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s proposal. 

“Conversations and negotiations related to the proposal occurred practically in secret, denying the community the opportunity to comment. We’re here to remind our public officials it is your job to listen to us and to listen to the will of the people. It is also the law,” Zambrano says.  

Details about the future of the 96-bed center have been scant since detained families were released earlier this year.

Court documents and sworn statements from federal officials say the center may expand its capacity to detain women migrants. 

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