Berks appealing state decision on facility for immigrant families

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Feb 22, 2016 4:55 AM

(Bern Township) -- The state recently announced that it would revoke the license of a Berks County facility that holds people seeking asylum in the U.S., effective Sunday.

But Berks County is appealing the state's decision.

The Berks County Residential Center is said to house about 90 adults and children.

But the state Department of Human Services decided to pull its license because it only allows children to live at the site.

One immigrant advocate - Oona Chatterjee - wants the county to reconsider.

"We believe the appeal is a waste of taxpayer's money and that the county commissioners should immediately drop the appeal. The center is clearly operating illegally and dragging this out doesn't make any sense," she says.

"The folks who are incarcerated in the center came here pursuing a dream that many of us who live in this country share, to make a better life for their families. Incarcerating people for having that dream is not a value we should be elevating."

Federal officials and immigrant advocates have sparred over whether the Berks County Residential Center is like a jail or not.

The feds say people can walk around freely and there are no fences, but advocates say they can't leave.

The U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement says operations are continuing at the Berks County Residential Center while the appeal is ongoing.

It's not known how long a decision will take.

The first hearing is set for early next month.

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