End Family Detention in Pennsylvania: Shut Down Berks!

If you live in the Northeast, you probably think that family detention centers are far far away in Texas or some other border state. But did you know that about 120 miles from NYC there is a family detention facility that houses families that have been separated at the border? It’s true.  Family detention is happening less than 200 miles away in neighboring Pennsylvania. It’s called Berks Detention Center. (It is actually called “family residential center” but I’d argue that is a misnomer). 

There are many people living around here that don’t know this, so I thought I’d share. There is a campaign called Shut Down Berks created by the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition. 

End Family Detention in Pennsylvania: Shut Down Berks!
Thanks to Michelle Angela Ortiz for
her art designed for the Shut Down
Berks Campaign.

Berks Detention Center is located in Leesport, Pennsylvania, only 124 miles from where I live in Queens, NY. It was opened in 2014, before that it was a senior center. It can house up to 96 people. According to the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizen Coalition, children as young as two-weeks-old have been incarcerated and many of the families held at Berks have been held for more than a year.

Ongoing efforts have been happening to demand that this detention center be closed. Groups have asked Pennsylvania’s governor, Gov. Wolf, to close it down, however he says that he can’t do it because this transaction happened directly between Berks County and the federal government, and that only the federal government can shut it down. 


This is a video of a #ClosetheCamps vigil in Harriburg.

Here are things you can do to help End Family Detention in Pennsylvania:

Follow Shut Down Berks on social media and help amplify their messages:

Sign up for their newsletter here. 

If you live in Pennsylvania, make sure to call your elected officials and say that you oppose family detention and the anti-immigration bills that are in the works. 

Call the Governor’s office and ask him to issue an emergency removal order (which he can do) due to the human rights abuses that families have been suffering at this detention center. This is one way he can shut down Berks. 

Get more information on how Gov. Wolf can issue and ERO here: Temple Law School Sheller Center for Social Justice: Report Legal Memo. This report looks into how Gov. Wolf can issues an ERO and shut down the center once and for all. 

Shut Down Berks has a toolkit with more information here. 



Photo credit: Photo by Nitish Meena on Unsplash 

Diana Limongi
Diana a mom, activist, nonprofit professional, podcaster and writer from Queens, NY. She writes about motherhood, activism, raising my multilingual kids, culture and travel. She and her multicultural family live in Queens, NY.

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