LEESPORT, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania facility used by the U.S. government to detain asylum-seeking immigrants has released several families and is no longer holding children and parents, according to activists and U.S. Sen. Bob Casey.
The Berks County Residential Center outside Reading was one of three family detention centers in the U.S. that held children and parents who are seeking asylum or who entered the country illegally. Activists have long called for the detention center’s closure.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement confirmed Monday that no one is in custody at the facility.
Some 25 people, including 15 children, in seven or eight families were released last week, according to Bridget Cambria, executive director of the group Aldea, which represents families at the detention center in Leesport.
“They were released to their families in every corner of the United States where they were received with love, care and support and where they will continue their immigration process,” Cambria said.
The county-operated facility in Leesport, about 65 miles northwest of Philadelphia, has been under contract with immigration authorities since 2001.
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Immigrant rights groups have long demanded an end to family detention, alleging medical neglect and other abuses. At one point, the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services refused to renew the center’s license.
Casey, D-Pa., tweeted that he is “pleased that all the families held on the Berks detention facility have been released. This is a long-overdue step to deliver justice to vulnerable migrant families, including children.”