Advocates Welcome End of ICE Contract at York County Prison

Friday, July 2, 2021


The We Are Home and #WelcomeWithDignity campaigns applaud yesterday’s announcement by York County, Pennsylvania officials that they will end their contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the county prison will no longer detain immigrants. 

Both campaigns applaud the work of CASA–a We Are Home steering committee member–for the organization’s years of tireless advocacy demanding the closure of the York facility, where asylum seekers and immigrants were needlessly detained, exposed to COVID-19, and even lost their lives. 

“This victory of shutting down ICE detention in York is a result of immigrants and allies who marched, spoke out and stood up for basic dignity,” said Thais Carrero, CASA’s Pennsylvania state director. “While the decision is described as budgetary, we know that York County Commissioners heard the stories of CASA members like Oscar. He was at work when ICE showed up looking for someone else. Instead they took Oscar and detained him for weeks at the York County Prison even though he posed no danger.  Overnight, Oscar, and many like him, went from being hard workers supporting their families and the York community to being detained; all because the York prison was available. These are the stories that won hearts, minds, and votes. This detention center was a cruel one where many got sick and died from COVID and many others suffered human rights abuses. CASA calls on Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to reunite the more than 300 parents, uncles, and sons, to go home to their families in Pennsylvania. Kicking ICE out of York should set the tone for Pennsylvania’s relationship with immigrants. The Commonwealth should create an inclusive community wherein immigrants and people of color can build trust with its local government and look to expanded services.”

Members of the We Are Home and #WelcomeWithDignity campaigns responded: 

“The closure of the York detention facility follows years of hard-fought advocacy by community leaders and organizers like CASA. This takes us one step closer to our goal of eliminating the abhorrent practice of detaining immigrants and people seeking asylum,” said Blaine Bookey, Legal Director of the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS). “CGRS sued to challenge the detention of asylum seekers at the York County Prison and other facilities where they have been wrongly denied the opportunity for release. We’ve seen firsthand how detention violates due process, makes it nearly impossible for individuals to build their cases for protection, and harms asylum seekers’ physical and mental health.”

We Are Home Campaign Director Bridgette Gomez said, “In Pennsylvania and around the country, communities are standing up to the destructive ICE detention and deportation system and saying ‘no’ to family separation, ‘no’ to children traumatized by the loss of a parent, ‘no’ to jailing immigrants during a pandemic, and ‘no’ to profiting from the pain of our immigrant community members. We applaud the activists that successfully fought to end ICE detention in York County, Pennsylvania, including CASA, Juntos, Families for Freedom, and others. We also call on ICE to release immigrants from detention, not transfer them to another facility.”      

“Human Rights First salutes CASA and its members for their long and successful effort to bring about an end to immigration detention at the York County Prison,” said Patricia Stottlemyer, Litigation Staff Attorney at Human Rights First. “Having represented asylum seekers who endured months of arbitrary detention at York, and having litigated ICE’s failure to abide by its own parole guidelines at this facility and many others, we hope this closure will prompt ICE to cease the unnecessary detention of asylum seekers. And not only at York, but also in the many more remote locations where local communities may be less able to organize in opposition.”

“ICE’s immigration detention system does not need to exist and communities across the country are organizing to end it. The end of this contract  is another example of how people are uniting to protect immigrant family members, friends, coworkers, and neighbors by demanding detention centers be shut down for good,” said Silky Shah, Executive Director of Detention Watch Network. “York County Prison has a long history of abuse, including the death of Tiombe Carlos, a 34-year-old Antiguan woman who was detained at the facility for over two years. This is a victory for the movement to end immigration detention. We applaud people impacted by detention that have bravely spoken out against York and the many years of local community organizing by CASA and Detention Watch Network members, Juntos and Families for Freedom, and others that led to this win for immigrant communities nationwide. As an immediate next step, ICE must release all immigrants currently detained at York back to their communities and families instead of inhumanely transferring them to other detention centers.”

“Women’s Refugee Commission is grateful to the leadership by CASA and other community organizers as we learned yesterday’s news that ICE detention at the York County Prison would finally come to an end,” said Katharina Obser, acting director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at Women’s Refugee Commission. “Our own visits to York underscored what we’ve long documented in facilities across the country: that ICE immigration detention lacks meaningful access to counsel, medical and mental health care, and strips those in detention of dignity and due process. We hope that yesterday’s news brings us one step closer to a long overdue immigration system that supports those navigating it rather than detaining them, and welcomes with dignity rather than attempts to deter.”

The #WelcomeWithDignity Campaign is composed of more than 80 organizations committed to transforming the way the United States receives and protects people forced to flee their homes to ensure they are treated humanely and fairly. To learn more and join our campaign visit: welcomewithdignity.org

We Are Home is a nationwide campaign to fight for immigrant communities on three fronts: prioritizing and demanding a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America; a moratorium and overhaul of interior enforcement; and broad affirmative relief from deportation. We Are Home is co-chaired by Community Change/Community Change Action; National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA)/Care in Action; Service Employees International Union (SEIU); United Farm Workers/UFW Foundation; and United We Dream.