Philadelphia is not one of the 10 cities to be targeted in upcoming massive immigration raids across the country, but locals still fear that immigrant youths will be locked up within the city.
Hundreds marched Friday in Center City against the possible repurposing of the controversial VisionQuest residential care facility, which in June got the green light to transfer dozens of boys between the ages of 12 and 17 to Philadelphia.
They also demanded the closure of the Berks County Residential Center, the state and county-licensed, federally-funded facility that holds immigrant families.
"We went from in the last five years working with shutting down Berks County detention center and now with VisionQuest trying to open in North Philly, it's really hard for our communities because that's where they're going to keep our families and keep the children for them to be treated inhumanely," said Karla Rojas, a paralegal who works with immigrants.
Arizona-based VisionQuest has been accused of both physical and mental abuse. In 2017, the Philadelphia Department of Human Services ended its contract with the company, and the city is currently battling in court to prevent VisionQuest from housing undocumented minors at its Old York Road location.
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The state too, says it has tried to shut down the Berks County family detention facility. Last year, a spokesman for Gov. Tom Wolf said the governor "has done everything in his power to revoke the license from Berks," yet the center remains open.
Activists, however, said they are undaunted and will continue to keep up the fight.
"I think the local immigrant community needs to know that Philadelphia as a whole is standing behind them," Miguel Andrade said.