The Berks County Detention Facility, ICE and the KKK

Here are a few more photos from the Immigration Rally held in Philly on Saturday, some reflections on that rally, and some suggestions on what you can do next to resist Trump and his white nationalist movement.
Carol and I attended the rally and when it was over we went to a nice place to have a small lunch. The room was air conditioned and the food was good and I had a wave of guilt – here I was eating and enjoying myself and at the same time there were adults and children placed in internment camps, given little or no rights to seek asylum, and kept for undetermined lengths of time. I realize that it was privilege that allowed me to do this and it strengthened my determination to continue to speak out, donate money, vote and do as much as I can do to stop this inhumane treatment. I will be including some suggestions for readers to continue similar actions at the end of this entry.
This protest also triggered a memory that I wish to share here and I want to write more about the Berks County Detention Center – there were people at the protest that had never heard of the Berks Center and I suspect that some of the readers of this entry may also not have heard about the Berks Center. The other centers similar to it are both located in Texas.
Berks Country has an interesting history in racial politics. A former Grand Dragon of the KKK lived in Berks County. His name was Roy Frankhouser and he is deceased now. I was not able to find a name for the person who replaced him, but I believe the Klan to still be active in Berks County. That is what triggered the following memory. Years ago Carol and I knew a bi-racial couple (who have since moved away). Carol and I had lived in Berks County before we knew them – we both went to school at Kutztown University many years ago. We thought it would be fun to take our friends on a visit to a farmer’s market which we used to enjoy doing when we lived there. We went to Zern’s Market in Gilbertsville, which is actually in Montgomery County but very close to Boyertown, Pa. The county line is very close to the market. After we arrived at the market we began walking around and noticed that our friends seemed very uncomfortable. They then told us that they knew about KKK activity and the presence of a Grand Dragon in Berks County and that as we walked around they could feel and see the stares and reception they were receiving. We agreed to leave immediately and it was only then that I began to sense what they were telling us. (It’s amazing how my whiteness clouded what my friends could see and feel. This was an important lesson for me in growing up and getting wiser.) We apologized profusely to our friends and we have never returned to Zern’s since then.
The voting history of Berks County speaks to the racial politics of today. In 2012 President Obama lost the county. He had 83,011 votes to Romney’s total of 84,702. The city of Reading was solidly Democratic. In most city precincts Obama was favored by a margin ranging from 2-1 to 6-1. That means the Romney votes came from the rural towns around the city. In 2016 Clinton lost the county. She had 78,437 votes to white nationalist Trump who had 96,626 votes. Once again in the city the precincts voted Democratic by margins ranging from 2-1 to 4-1. The Trump votes, and many more of them than for Romney, came from the rural towns around the city. The rural area of Berks County is where the Berks County Detention Center is located.
The Berks County Detention Center was begun in 2001 when the county commissioners signed a contract with ICE. Most likely this was a response to 9/11 as was the creation of ICE around the same time. Its capacity is supposed to be set at 96, but it is unclear how many people are there now. There have been reports of documented abuse from families that include rape and denial of immediate medical care. In 2009 and again in 2015 a Federal Court determined that detaining children in jail-like settings for extended periods of time is illegal. DHS and ICE have defied these rulings. In 2016 the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services chose not to renew the license to operate the Detention Center. The Detention Center appealed and the case languishes in court proceedings while continuing to operate and accept new families. Governor Wolf has been requested to sign an Emergency Removal Order (ERO) but has not done so claiming different excuses at different times.
What can be done? There are things that you can do – vote, donate money, take to the streets or contact politicians.
1. Contact Governor Wolf – go to http://www.governor.pa.gov and you will find a way to contact him either by phone, mail, email or fax. He has done many positive things for this state, and now he needs to do another.
2. Donate to groups such as ACLU at http://www.action.aclu.org or RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services at http://www.raicestexas.org)
3. If you are a big twitter user I have been given these hashtags #EndFamilySeparation and #AbolishICE I am not a twitter user but I hope they help you.
4. Continue the protests and register to vote – November is critical. Silence and inactivity are not moral options any longer.

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