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PA Senior Senator has long fought against family detention, called for Berks facility to close

Washington, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) is releasing a statement on the closure of the Berks County Residential Center (BCRC):

“Closing the Berks detention center is a long overdue step to deliver justice to the vulnerable migrant families and children who were previously detained there,” said Senator Casey. “For years I have raised concerns about the conditions at Berks to multiple presidential administrations. I have also urged the Department of Homeland Security to close the center for good to ensure that no future family will endure what they did in detention. The job of government is to protect children, not incarcerate them.”

For years, Senator Casey has advocated on behalf of detained migrant families, including those at the Berks facility. Below is a timeline of his work on the issue:

2015-2016 : Senator Casey sent multiple letters to then-Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson urging an end to the practice of family detention and expressing concern about reported conditions for families and children subject to prolonged detention at the Berks County Residential Center.

May 2017 : Senator Casey pushed the Trump Administration to end the detention of four families at BCRC, leading a bicameral letter to then-Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly and calling him. Casey also sent a letter to then-President Donald Trump urging him to help a five-year-old child who was deported with his mother despite possibly being eligible for Special Immigrant Juvenile Status and facing the real possibility of violence upon return.

October 24, 2019 : Following a summertime visit to the facility and concerning reports of migrant families being denied access to medical care, adequate sleep, and more, Senator Casey and U.S. Representative Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA-6) sent a letter pressing U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) to provide more information on conditions at Berks.

December 20, 2019 : Senator Casey sent a letter to ICE urging the immediate release of Maddie, a six-year-old child who had been in detention for over six months. The letter also requested data on the length of families in detention and followed up on questions regarding health care services from October letter.

July 16, 2020 : Following a Federal court ruling calling for the release of all children and families in detention because of the coronavirus pandemic, Senator Casey sent a letter to ICE questioning what steps they were taking to comply with the ruling and urging for the unified release of families from Berks.

November 20, 2020 : Senators Casey and Cory Booker (D-NJ) sent a letter to then-Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf urging him to stay the removals of 28 children and their families detained at BCRC and at the South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC) in Dilley, Texas, immediately release them from ICE custody, and allow them the opportunity to present their claim for asylum or related relief.

December 17, 2020 : On a call with ICE, Senator Casey pressed officials about the status of families at Berks.

February 28, 2021 : Senator Casey announced that all families held at Berks had been released and called for the permanent closure of the center.