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WASHINGTON – Amnesty International USA delivered petitions today to Ivanka Trump, Advisor to the President, urging her to intervene on behalf of the families held at Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania after seeking asylum. Over 33,000 people around the world signed personalized postcards and petitions. Currently, there are dozens of children and parents held at Berks, one of three such family detention centers, which are akin to jails, in the United States.

“Over and over again, the Trump administration has sought to close our borders to people fleeing horrific violence. The world is watching as parents and children who have lost everything are put behind bars in the United States for seeking safety,” said Margaret Huang, executive director of Amnesty International USA. “Families seeking protection in the U.S. should not be treated like criminals. The senseless imprisonment of mothers, fathers, and children goes against our country’s shared values of equality and dignity. It’s time for the U.S. government to end the cruel practice of family detention at centers like Berks once and for all. These families should be released.”

Amnesty also delivered a letter to Ivanka Trump. It reads, in part:

“New families continue to be locked up every day simply for asking for protection from the violence and persecution they face in their home countries…Family detention is inhumane, expensive, and undermines this country’s long history as a beacon of hope for people seeking safety. Children and their parents should be treated humanely and should be able to access protection when they arrive at U.S. borders, but are instead detained in prison-like conditions, despite their valid claims for asylum”

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 extreme levels of violence and insecurity, which Amnesty has documented extensively.

Over the last few months, Amnesty campaigned for the release of four families who had been detained for nearly two years at the Berks family detention center. The youngest, Josue*, was three years old when released.  He learned to walk and talk in detention. Another child, Carlos*, was freed just a few days before turning five years old. He had spent his past two birthdays behind bars.

Amnesty’s letter to Ivanka can be is here: https://www.amnestyusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/10-30-17-Follow-Up-To-Ivanka-Trump.pdf