What to Know
- Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale is calling on the federal government to stop holding immigrant families at the Berks County Residential Center.
- The 96-bed facility is leased by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and owned by Berks County.
- "The center costs U.S. taxpayers nearly $12 million a year to incarcerate people who are not facing criminal charges," DePasquale said.
Pennsylvania's independently elected fiscal watchdog said Wednesday that his staff was refused a tour of a Berks County facility that is one of three family detention centers in the United States that hold children and parents who are seeking asylum or entered the country illegally.
Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a Democrat who is running for Congress, nevertheless said the federal government should stop the long-term detention of asylum seekers and he urged Berks County to reconsider whether it wants to profit from the practice.
"No one being held at the Berks facility is facing any criminal charges, but the center still essentially functions as a jail in which adults and children, sometimes mere babies, are detained," DePasquale told a news conference in his Capitol complex office building.
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As of this week, one 6-year-old child has been held at the facility for 167 days, DePasquale said.
The county leases the 96-bed facility to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and residents there are federal detainees.
"The center costs U.S. taxpayers nearly $12 million a year to incarcerate people who are not facing criminal charges," DePasquale said in a news release.
Pennsylvania's Department of Human Services inspects the facility monthly and has not reported a violation since June 2018, DePasquale said.
"The state should continue to inspect the facility so there is some independent verification of the actual conditions inside and ensure the safety of the children being detained," DePasquale said.
DePasuale’s full report on the Berks County Residential Center can be viewed here.
Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey released a statement on DePasquale's report on Wednesday.
“We agree with Auditor DePasquale’s assessment that the families should not be detained during their immigration proceedings," a spokesperson for Casey wrote. "Rather, effective and humane alternatives to detention, such as the Family Case Management Program, should be utilized.”