Amnesty International USA is launching a global campaign today to urge Ivanka Trump to intervene on behalf of the women and children held at Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania. Amnesty has sent a letter to Trump on June 7 urging her to visit Berks. Currently, there are as many as 60 infants, toddlers, children, fathers and mothers jailed at Berks, one of three such family detention centers, which are akin to jails, in the United States. Some have been held for more than 600 days.
“Berks is a clear symbol of the cruelty of this country’s immigration system. The women and children held at Berks fled horrific violence in their home countries, only to be put behind bars in the United States,” said Margaret Huang, executive director at Amnesty International USA. “Parents are facing an impossible choice: stay and risk violence or flee to the U.S. and risk tearing their family apart or raising a family in jail. We are asking Ms. Trump to witness, firsthand, what these families are experiencing as they seek refuge in this country.”
Amnesty’s letter reads, in part:
“Your concern for the situation of working mothers and children across this country gives us hope that you will intervene. As an initial step, we urge you to visit Berks and see for yourself the senseless imprisonment of children as young as two weeks old….Amnesty International is fighting to ensure that people with asylum claims are given a fair hearing and humane treatment. We must do everything we can to ensure protection for people who are fleeing violence. We invite you to join us in this fight…”
Most of the families held at Berks come from a region known as the Northern Triangle 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.
“It is unconscionable to hold vulnerable families and to force children to grow up behind bars,” said Huang. “This cruel and inhumane policy of imprisoning families goes against the country’s shared values of equality and dignity for all. We must protect the rights of people fleeing violence by shutting down family detention centers like Berks.”