Shut Down Berks Coalition

"Las Madres de Berks" a 30 minute documentary by visual artist Michelle Angela Ortiz as a part of her "Familias Separatas" public art project. Find out more about her work on her website here.

The Shut Down Berks Coalition was a group of organizations and individuals fighting to close the Berks immigrant prison in Pennsylvania. Members of the coalition included organizers, lawyers, immigrant leaders, faith communities and allies. Free Migration Project was a leader in the Coalition. After an eight-year fight, the Coalition dissolved in February 2023, as the prison was permanently on January 31, 2023.


The Berks immigrant prison was one of three prisons for immigrant families in the U.S. until early 2021 when, after years of community advocacy, it was emptied. BCRC, as it is sometimes known, was the only publicly-owned prison for immigrant families in the country. Berks County owns and operates the building and grounds, and leased it to ICE who also rented office space from Berks County. The Berks immigrant prison remained empty for almost a year until, under the Biden administration, ICE resumed the imprisonment of immigrants in January 2022. This time, ICE imprisoned immigrant women as young as 18 years old at the site. But in late November of 2022, it was announced that the Biden administration would be ending the ICE contract with the County.


To learn more about the victory, you can read the op-ed by FMP's Deputy Director Adrianna Torres-García and Board President Jasmine Rivera: "A Victory for Abolitionists: ICE-Run Immigration Prison Shuts Down Today"


As part of the Shut Down Berks Coalition, Free Migration Project partnered with legal organizations, law school clinics, impacted people, and community members to litigate in Pennsylvania courts with the ultimate goal of closing the Berks immigration prison. Cases relating to this effort included:

  1. Licensing case, Bureau of Hearings and Appeals, 2016
  2. J.S.C. v. DHS, Commonwealth Court, 2019
  3. C.N. v. DHS, PA Supreme Court and Commonwealth Court, 2020
  4. Make the Road v. Leinbach, PA Commonwealth Court, 2021