Advocates want Berks facility shut ASAP

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Feb 3, 2016 4:20 AM

(Harrisburg) -- A midstate facility that has faced scrutiny for months may have to close.

The state recently pulled the license for the Berks County Residential Center, which some say is more like a jail.

The state Department of Human Services says effective Febuary 21st, the center in Bern Township will lose its license.

At times, about 90 adults and children have lived there while waiting for a decision on their asylum case.

But many advocates say the center feels like a jail, and people should be released to live in the community.

Adanjesus Marin leads Make the Road PA, which advocates for Latinos on issues like minimum wage and immigration.

He says there are much better options if the center closes.

"The majority of families who are locked up have family here and those that don't, there are many churches and many other organizations that are willing to house them while they wait for their hearings in immigration. It works for thousands of other people seeking asylum in this country, it should work for them too," says Marin.

Marin says the federal government should just close the facility, instead of challenging the state's decision.

"We don't think that anything has changed. The contact with the families are that things stay the same and the fact is that they can't continue to operate holding adults and children together in the state of Pennsylvania."

The state is pulling the license because both adults and children are housed there.

The license only authorized children living at the center.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it's reviewing the decision.

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