Pennsylvania Revokes License of Center Housing Immigrants - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Pennsylvania Revokes License of Center Housing Immigrants

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    State officials will not renew a Berks County center's operating license since it is being used as a center to house immigrant families, which officials say is not core to what the license grants. (Published Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016)

    The state decided to revoke the operating license of a residential facility used by the federal government to house asylum-seeking immigrant families. 

    The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services said it won't renew the Berks County Residential Center's license because the facility continues holding immigrant children and adults. The department said the center's operation as a federal immigration facility is inconsistent with its licensing as a child residential center.

    State officials notified the county-owned facility of their decision in a letter dated Jan. 27. The center's license expires Feb. 21.

    The center in Leesport, about 65 miles northwest of Philadelphia, has been under contract with immigration authorities since 2001. It's one of three such facilities nationwide. The other two are in Texas.

    Berks County officials declined comment, and it wasn't clear whether they would appeal.

    Khaalid Walls, spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said the agency is reviewing the state's letter "to determine the appropriate next steps."

    Immigrant-rights groups that have been demanding an end to family detention praised the decision.

    "The state of Pennsylvania sent a strong message today that immigration detention facilities are no place for children, especially those that have suffered trauma," Wendy Cervantes, director of the First Focus Center for Children of Immigrants, said in a statement.

    The Berks facility had been seeking to double its capacity to 192 residents.