Eight-year old Antonio* was ordered released with his mother from Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania today after being granted bond by an immigration judge. He and his 24-year-old mother Marlene fled kidnapping threats and severe physical and sexual assault before arriving in the U.S. seeking asylum. They have been held at Berks for over 23 months.
“Families fleeing horrific violence come to the United States in search of safety. But instead of showing true leadership and protecting refugees, the U.S. is imprisoning vulnerable mothers and children,” said Naureen Shah, senior director of campaigns at Amnesty International USA. “This practice is unconscionable and cannot be allowed to stand. While this ruling is obviously a huge relief for this family in the short term, we must not rest until family detention centers like Berks are shut down once and for all.”
Amnesty International USA launched a campaign in June to end the detention of children and their parents held at Berks County Residential Center. 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. At least three other families at Berks have been held for more than 600 days.
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.