Dean, Scanlon Demand Answers From ICE on COVID-19 Response at Berks Family Detention Center

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Washington, DC, June 18, 2020 | comments

Representatives Madeleine Dean (PA-4) and Mary Gay Scanlon  (PA-5) wrote a letter to Mr. Matthew T. Albence, Acting Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, inquiring about the pandemic response at the ICE family detention facility at Berks Family Center in Leesport, Pennsylvania.  


The letter follows news that there are currently zero confirmed cases of COVID-19 among Berks Family Center detainees. However, ICE reported testing only 5,096 of the 24,713 detainees it holds across the nation — leaving nearly 80% of detainees without COVID-19 testing. This is particularly concerning because detention facilities are known to be significant vectors of viral spread.


“The lack of transparency from the Berks County detention center deeply concerns me — we know with limited testing, there is an inability to trace and limit the spread of COVID-19, signaling that transmission rates are likely higher than we realize,” Rep. Dean said. “It's very concerning that these families are not only confined to this space, but at a higher risk of exposure to COVID-19 — we must protect them."


“As the coronavirus pandemic continues to devastate communities across the country, we know that individuals at congregant facilities are most at risk for infection,” Rep. Scanlon said.  “Oversight of detention facilities, like Berks, has always been important, especially during this public health crisis. We must continue to hold this Administration accountable, and ensure that immigrants in our country are treated with dignity and fairness.”


Reps. Dean and Scanlon’s letter follows a letter sent earlier this spring by Judiciary Committee Chairman, Jerrold Nadler, and Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship, Chair Zoe Lofgren, urging aggressive measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 in ICE facilities, including the release of individuals who pose no security threat.

In July of last year, the Reps. made a surprise visit to the Center to examine the conditions of the facility and speak with families and personnel  following respective trips to detention facilities at our southern border.

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