Family Detention Centers

Written on: August 18, 2015

During the recent Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) 2015 National Assembly one of the special interest sessions  was on Family Detention Centers. Family detention is the practice of holding immigrant families, including children and babies, in prison-like detention centers with their parents.  These detention centers are often operated by for-profit, private prison companies and are a source of great controversy because of the prevailing inhumane conditions. We urge you to read the two additional USCCB documents as well as the following brief explanation.


The number of Family Detention Centers began expanding last summer when the number of children crossing the border began to increase to 60,000 plus. On July 24, 2015 Judge Dolly Gee of the Federal District Court of California ordered the Obama administration to release from detention families fleeing violence in Central America. This was applauded by Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Migration.

The administration has pursued a detention policy for these families –young mothers with children– as a means to deter other families from migrating to the United States. At the special interest session, we saw a video of several families in a detention center telling their stories of life in the center and learned what this has done to them.

The Berks County, PA Residential Center, (another name for Family Detention Center), is one of three facilities across the country used by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to hold mothers and children who have been detained for alleged immigration violations. The government has recently increased its capacity to house mothers and children as it seeks to deter additional illegal immigration.

A group of immigration attorneys and advocates representing the detainees held at the residential center called on Gov. Tom Wolf and Attorney General Kathleen Kane to close the Berks County Residential Center, which the lawyers said was unlawfully imprisoning children. Here’s where our action will help!

We urge you to read both of the following statements from the U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops to get the full impact of this unspeakable policy that legalizes such treatment of women and children in our country. One of them has suggestions and talking points for what you can do to voice your opposition to these detention centers, especially the one in Berks County, PA.

From The Migration and Refugee Services of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

What Is Family Detention?

Demanding Dignity: The Call to End Family Detention

The presenters at the LCWR Special Session suggested calling our senators and representatives, ASAP, in Washington, and asking them, “What is your opinion on Family Detention Centers?” Then tell them how you feel about the centers and that you consider this to be a voter issue.

Pace e bene,

Sister Diane


Sister Diane Bardol is a member of the Leadership of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart. She is the Social Justice Coordinator for the Congregation.  Sister Diane frequently writes, calls and dialogues on topics concerning Justice.


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