Urgent Action: Four Young Children and their Mothers Detained for Over 500 Days (USA: UA 59/17)

Urgent Action
March 17, 2017

Antonio (7), Carlos (4), Josué (3), Michael (16) and their mothers Marlene, Lorena, Teresa and Maribel (all names changed to protect identities) have been held at the Berks County Residential Center, a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centre in Pennsylvania, for over 500 days. Each family is seeking asylum in the US after fleeing traumatic and life-threatening events, including kidnapping threats and severe physical and sexual violence, in their home countries of Honduras and El Salvador. The Berks County centre currently holds 34 families, many of whom come from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, a region where Amnesty International has documented extreme levels of violence and insecurity.

The families report declining physical and mental health in the detention centre. Josué suffers from severe allergies, and his mother has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, which, according to an independent psychological evaluation, is worsening in part due to detention. An independent doctor diagnosed Michael with depression, while his mother has a visible lump in her breast that may require surgery. 

Authorities granted all four children Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS) in late 2016 and each have pending applications for legal permanent residence. To obtain SIJS, a state court determined that it is not in the minors’ best interest to return to his or her home country. Under US law, a minor with SIJS is considered to have been paroled in the US. Authorities issued three of the children their Employment Authorization Document in January 2017 while the fourth awaits his. The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals granted all four mothers stays of removal while they challenge their removal orders in federal court. Additionally, each of the four families has an unchallenged sponsor in the US who is willing to take them in and ensure their appearance in court. Despite this, their SIJ status, compelling grounds for asylum and protection, and mental and physical health concerns, ICE officials refuse to release these four children and their mothers. There is no justification under US or international law to continue to detain them. 


Write a letter, send an email, call, fax or tweet:

  • Urging the authorities to immediately release on parole those granted SIJ status and their mothers who are detained at Berks County Residential Center;
  • Calling on them to ensure that they are provided necessary medical attention, in accordance with their wishes;
  • Urging them to ensure that while in detention, they be provided regular contact with family members and lawyers of their choosing

Contact these two officials by 27 April 2017:

Acting Field Officer for the Philadelphia Field Office
Jennifer Ritchey
Immigrations and Customs Enforcement
US Department of Homeland Security
York Field Office, 2400 Concord Rd.
York, PA, 17402, USA
Tel: +1 717 840 7754
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @ICEgov
Salutation: Dear Ms. Ritchey

Assistant Field Office Director
David O’Neil
Philadelphia Field Office
1600 Callowhill St. 6th Floor
Philadelphia, PA, 19130, USA 
Tel: +1 267 479 3693
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @ICEgov
Salutation: Dear Mr. O’Neil

Here’s why it is so important to report your actions: we record the number of actions taken on each case and use that information in our advocacy. Either email [email protected] with “UA 59/17” in the subject line or click this link.

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