A facility in Pennsylvania that has been holding immigrant families on behalf of the federal government is losing its license to operate.
In a letter to the Berks County Commission, state Department of Human Services director Matthew Jones said the decision to revoke a certificate of compliance stems from a discrepancy between the approved and actual use of the center.
“The Berks County Residential Center is not operating as a child residential facility … Instead, [it] is operating as a residential center for the detention of immigrant families, including adults,” it reads. The letter also denied the commission’s request to expand the center beyond its current capacity of 96 beds.
The center’s current license is set to expire on Feb. 21. Erika Almiron, executive director with the advocacy group Juntos, said she hopes this means detainees will be released soon, but there is a chance the shutdown could drag on.
“Having been working on these issues for a long time, we don’t know what to expect on the 21st, but we will be prepared to go up there and get the families out,” she said, referring to the center’s location in Leesport, about 65 miles north of Philadelphia.
The Berks County Commission has 10 days to formally appeal the department’s decision. It has appealed prior requests from the department seeking clarification on the type of facility the county intends to operate.
Neither the department nor members of the Berks County Commission responded to calls seeking comment.
Movements to shut down the other two federal immigrant family detention centers — both in Texas — have been slow to capitulate. But they have resulted in deportations from those centers, rather than the release of detainees to family members or community groups as advocates had hoped.
Still, advocates like Almiron are mobilizing support should the dozens of families detained in Berks be released.
“There are families that have been there four to five months, and most of those families have a place to go,” she said. “And if they don’t, we have coalition that is willing to help them … find places to stay.”