OAKLAND — Centro Legal de la Raza (Centro Legal) stands in solidarity with the 22 immigrant mothers who are currently on the eighth day of a hunger strike at the Berks County Residential Center. These women, along with their children, are being held in detention while they seek asylum in the United States. The women have been held from 60 days to over a year, despite having meritorious claims for release and relatives in the United States who are willing to receive them.
Centro Legal applauds the courage of these women, and calls on the Obama administration to end its draconian policy of detaining families seeking protection here in the United States. Last month, Centro Legal attorneys were once again on the ground at the family detention center, in Dilley, Texas. As we saw firsthand, the women and children being held in detention have nearly all experienced horrific violence in their home countries: sexual abuse by family members, violence at the hands of a partner, or extortion and threats of death by violent criminal gangs. These families have come to the United States seeking protection from this violence, and present absolutely no security risk.
Detaining these families is unnecessary, inhumane, and in violation of the United States’ international legal obligations to asylum seekers. As the hunger strikers wrote in an open letter to Secretary Jeh Johnson:
“We left our homes in Central America to escape violence, threats and corruption. We thought this country would help us, but now we are locked up with our children in a place where we feel threatened, including by some of the medical personnel, leaving us with no one left to trust.”
Centro Legal is committed to representing these women and children. In the past two years alone, our immigration attorneys have represented over 566 families – women and children recently released from Berks, Dilley, and other family detention centers.
Centro Legal is also committed to representing asylum seekers detained in the Bay Area. Here at the Mesa Verde Detention Facility in Bakersfield, CA, and at the West County Detention Facility in Richmond, CA hundreds of asylum seekers are detained at any given time. Centro Legal represents as many detained individuals as possible. We also recently started the Mesa Verde Pro Bono Project in partnership with Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto (CLSEPA) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) to provide pro bono representation to these asylum seekers.
TAKE ACTION: To show your support for the Berks hunger strikers, please call Immigration and Customs Enforcement Field Office Director Thomas Decker at 215-656-7164 and ask him to release these families.