In an extraordinary move, three-year old Josué* was ordered released from Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania today. He and his 28-year-old mother Teresa fled kidnapping threats and physical and sexual assault in Honduras before arriving in the US seeking asylum. They have been imprisoned at Berks for over 16 months. Josué has spent over half his life in detention, learning to walk and talk in confinement.
Amnesty International USA launched a campaign in June to end the detention of children and their parents held at family detention facilities like Berks County Residential Center. Currently, there are dozens of children and parents jailed at Berks, one of three such family detention centers, which are akin to jails, in the United States. At least 3 other families at Berks have been held for more than 600 days.
“Today’s decision is welcome but temporary relief for Josué and his mother. We will continue to fight to ensure that people with asylum claims are given a fair hearing and humane treatment,” said Eric Ferrero, deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA. “The families held at Berks fled horrific violence in their home countries, only to be put behind bars in the United States. This senseless imprisonment goes against our country’s shared values of equality and dignity. Immigration and Customs Enforcement should release the remaining families and the Department of Homeland Security must shut down family detention centers like Berks once and for all.”
Many of the families held at Berks come from a region known as the Northern Triangle of Central America, which includes El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The Northern Triangle is an area widely recognized for its extreme levels of violence and insecurity, which Amnesty has documented extensively.