Yesterday afternoon, my daughter and I got arrested along with about a dozen immigrants and allies, for blocking the road outside the Berks Family Detention Center. This action was part of a years-long campaign led by immigrants and their supporters in PA, calling on Governor Wolf to issue an Emergency Removal Order and to close this facility.
Hear from people detained at the center:
“My message for the Governor of Pennsylvania is to close the Berks Detention Center. It is unjust that the children and mothers and now fathers are in that place. And instead of finding protection, we find a prison. It is unjust. That is why I ask the Governor to please close the Berks center. My belief is that no family, regardless of their color, race, regardless of their country, of what part of the world they come from, they should not be put in prison.” – Lorena, mother held for nearly two years with her son
“The first thing that I would ask him (Governor Wolf) is just to make the wrong right. There’s no need to say that a state would lose jobs because we are asking them to shut down this place. The same staff can provide human services for immigration. The same staff that you are using right now as guard in prison they can become human service providers. The same place that you have right now can break out their locks, open their rooms for people who really needs a place to live. Who really needs some medical assistance where they are fighting for their legal right. We don’t want to get anything illegal. We are not looking for charity. We are just looking for legal paths for our legitimate cases. Finally, I just want him to think for a moment if he were in the place of any one of those fathers or mothers, how would he like to be treated.” – Waddah, father detained for six months with his daughter
If you are moved to do so, please contribute to the organizations that have been working on this campaign, and for the legal defense of the protestors, here.
As a parent, the thing I want most is for my kids to grow up safe and happy, and to feel the world around them is a welcoming place. Everybody’s kids deserve that. We shouldn’t be putting families in prison, not just because it hurts those families, but because it hurts our whole society. No one’s kids can grow up safe and happy, in a society that is broken and unwelcoming.
Is there irony, in getting arrested with my kid to protest other people’s families being locked up together? Probably, but for now I’m mostly just tired and a little sad about the state of our world (and also proud of her for committing her first act of civil disobedience, at 18).
If you’re proud of her too, please contribute to her favorite Latinx community organization, Make the Road PA.
Mario Savio, hero of the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley once said, “There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part. You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it — that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”
This machine can’t keep working. Listen to the families, and donate to the fight.
*h/t to Melissa Byrne for grabbing this screenshot of the two of us