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Sarah Lazare – Mothers Incarcerated With Their Children in Obama’s Disgraceful Family Prisons Want Freedom for the Holidays

“We are desperate because this will be the second Christmas that our children have to spend here,” 17 mothers incarcerated at the Berks County Family Detention Center wrote in a recent joint letter to state authorities, publicized by the advocacy organization Grassroots Leadership. “This is in addition to all the other special dates—such as the birthdays of our children and our own, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.—that we have had to spend in this jail… We ask you, 17 desperate mothers, to give the biggest gift to our children of being able to spend Christmas among family.”

Nearly 500 mothers and children are locked up in Berks, one of three remaining “family detention centers” in the United States. In 2014, the Obama administration responded to the crisis of violent displacement from Central American countries by incarcerating mothers with their children in facilities that human rights observers say amount to prisons. Some have compared the institutions to another historical disgrace, Japanese-American internment camps, and the institutions have been roundly condemned by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. As the Detention Watch Network notes, family detention centers became the backbone of Obama’s immigration policy “despite the U.S. having a direct hand in creating the violent and unstable conditions prevailing in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador that are causing many to flee.”

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