The Berks Kids

Kids and their parents are stuck in what are known as “baby jails.” Their so-called crime? Fleeing violence and dreaming of safety in the United States.

Every year, tens of thousands of people come to the U.S. southern border seeking safety. They are trying to escape horrific violence and persecution, and going there to ask for asylum, a form of protection recognized under U.S. and international law.

The Problem

Upon entering the U.S., many people seeking safety here are imprisoned and held behind bars for many weeks, months, and even years, without easy access to lawyers or interpreters.
The majority come from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador in Central America. But they also come from Africa, South Asia, the Middle East, and elsewhere.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) detains families seeking asylum at three family detention centers. They hold as many as 3,000 kids and parents each day. Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania is the oldest of these “baby jails.” Some children and parents are deported without ever having their claims for protection heard – forced to return to countries where they may be tortured, imprisoned, or even killed.


Amnesty International has helped protect the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers for decades – documenting the conditions they are fleeing, ensuring that individual people are protected, and changing policies so that more people can rebuild their lives.
Last year, Amnesty International campaigned for the release of four families held at Berks family detention center. They had been jailed there for nearly two years. In August, all four families were friends. One child was three-years-old when released. He learned to walk and talk behind bars. Our urgent action to free these children and their parents was part of #TheBerksKids campaign to end the policy of detaining families simply for seeking safety in the U.S.

While the four Berks families are free, the battle doesn’t end there. The government is trying to put them back in jail, and new families continue to be locked up every day at Berks as well as the other detention sites in Karnes City and Dilley, Texas. Family detention is inhumane, expensive, and undermines the United States’ long history as a beacon of hope for people seeking safety. It’s time the U.S. free all families in detention like #TheBerksKids.

Join us and call on DHS to immediately release parents and children in detention like #TheBerksKids, and end the policy of detaining families for seeking asylum.

1. Download a Petition and gather signatures in your community

2. Tweet at the Department of Homeland Security

Here are some examples: 

3. Take more actions to speak out for refugee rights 

Norway: Stop Taibeh’s Deportation Now!  18 year old Taibeh Abbasi and her family are at risk of deportation to Afghanistan

Canada: Rescind Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement