After visit, Pa.’s Casey, Houlahan press ICE for answers on Berks Co. detention center | Friday Morning Coffee

October 25, 2019 7:03 am

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

In a sternly worded letter alleging, among other things, “successful and attempted” middle of the night deportations, apparent misinformation about immigration status, and children being held for long periods of time, two more Pennsylvania politicians are calling on the Trump administration to come clean on a controversial ICE detention center in Berks County.

“We are a nation of immigrants and we are a nation of laws,” U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and U.S. Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-6th District, wrote Thursday to ICE Acting Director Matthew T. Albence. “It is possible for the United States to foster an immigration system that respects both of these values … right now, the Berks facility is not furthering either of these goals.”

Casey and Houlahan visited the facility, located in Leesburg, Pa., near Reading, on Thursday. That visit came in response to reports of migrant families being denied access to medical care, mental health services, adequate sleep and information about the length of their detention, Casey’s office said in a statement.

Immigration advocates and their allies have been pressing both the Democratic Wolf administration and the Republican Trump administration to shutter the ICE facility, which is one of three family detention centers nationwide that holds migrant families as their cases are adjudicated. It is owned by Berks County and leased by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as ICE is formally known.

Mexico–United States barrier at the border of Tijuana, Mexico and San Diego, USA. The crosses represent migrants who died in the crossing attempt. Some identified, some not. Surveillance tower in the background.
WikiMedia Commons Image by Tomas Castelazo.

The Thursday letter from Casey and Houlahan also “seeks data regarding the length of time families are detained, and clarity on the medical, mental health and other services provided to families, with an emphasis on the availability of specialized care for children,” Casey’s office said in an email to journalists.

“During our visit, we were informed that residents have access to medical services at all hours provided by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Health Service Corps. However, we have heard troubling accounts of medical care not being provided until children are very ill,” Casey and Houlahan wrote.  “We have also heard that when residents are sent to the hospital or outside medical services and provided a prescription, those prescriptions will not be filled automatically. Rather, ICE providers will review and determine whether to provide the treatment. In addition, there have been reported instances of families being separated when a parent or child is sent to outside medical services.”

WikiMedia Commons

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.