Bern Township, Pa. — On one side of the road were 300 migrant workers, family members, and supporters from Philadelphia and as far away as Washington, D.C., Chicago and New York. Holding signs and banners while chanting slogans in Spanish and English, the boisterous crowd heard speakers criticize the human rights crime of holding refugee men, women, children, toddlers and even infants in detention camps.
Across the street from the July 11 rally in Bern Township were refugee children and women, kept on the other side of a long row of orange plastic cones lined up on a green lawn, between the Berks Detention Center buildings on the left and guards and cops on the right. When a toddler ran toward the cones, one of the women rushed to stop the child from escaping their open-air prison.
As the crowd chanted “¡Sí, se puede!” some of the imprisoned youth replied with their own chant: “¡Libertad!”
The rally’s highpoint was the appearance of Ana, 33, and her 12-year-old daughter Yubitza, who had finally been released from the facility the day before, after a year in detention. Ana expressed her solidarity with friends still being unfairly held. “It’s unjust that they’re in there,” she said. “They’re not murderers, they’re not delinquents.” (ReadingEagle.com, July 12)
Organized by the Migrant Power Movement and at least six groups in the Philadelphia area, the gathering ended with what was billed as the “Shut down Berks” Liberation Concert.
Almost 5,000 individuals escaping violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and who were caught at the U.S./Mexico border are being held at the Berks County Residential Center — Immigration Family Center outside Philadelphia, as well as at two facilities in Texas, in Karnes City and Dilley.
The Department of Homeland Security either refuses to release, or sets high bonds on many families, even though U.S. officials admit that 88 percent of the mothers and children have been found to be asylum seekers, even by overly stringent federal rules.
“Seeking asylum is not an illegal act, and these families should be met with protection, not punishment,” asserts the National Immi