(Reading) — A federal judge recently ordered three federal family detention centers to release mothers and children by the 23rd. But an advocate doesn’t think one in the midstate will comply.
The detention center in Bern Township has faced constant criticism from advocates – questioning conditions inside the facility, legal representation for people held there, and why the state allows it to operate.
Families who came into the U.S. illegally are held there while they wait for a court hearing.
Now as the deadline approaches for it to release mothers and children, an immigration lawyer say there’s no sign the center will meet it.
“Every person that’s released, the bed is immediately filled. It’s not sort of a situation that we see ending from immigration’s perspective. They’re continuing to detain people, they’re continuing to house people,” says Attorney Jacqueline Kline, who has represented more than 100 people in the Berks facility.
She says in the past few months, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement has sped up processing and made decisions quickly, but it’s not enough.
“Having children in family detention causes irreparable damage and doctors, physicians, psychologists have said that even a few weeks to a few months can really damage a child.”
Kline says Immigrations and Customs Enforcement is starting to move people through the system more quickly, but that also means they often don’t have a chance to meet with a lawyer before a hearing.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says conditions are being improved, but the agency also plans to appeal parts of the court’s decision.
There are two similar centers in Texas.
Meanwhile, a Philadelphia lawyer is also challenging the center’s license from the state Department of Human Services.
The state says it doesn’t see a basis for revoking the license, but it will continue to make unannounced visits.