In an extraordinary move, fifteen-year old Astrid and her father Arturo were released today. This morning, Amnesty International USA delivered petitions to the Philadelphia Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office, urging Acting Field Office Director Gregory Brawley to release the family.
Despite seeking protection, the family was held at Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania for 32 days. Over 78,000 people across the world signed petitions demanding their release.
“This decision is a huge relief for Astrid and Arturo. Already, Astrid was forced to celebrate her quinceañera while imprisoned. She deserves to be back in her classroom with teachers and friends,” said Sheetal Dhir, senior campaigner at Amnesty International USA. “It goes against our country’s shared values of equality and dignity to lock up parents and children for seeking safety. We will continue to fight to ensure that people seeking protection are given a fair hearing and humane treatment.”
In February, Astrid and Arturo were detained by ICE in the middle of the night and sent to Berks County Residential Center in Pennsylvania.
They are Indigenous K’iche from Guatemala, where discrimination and violence against this community is institutionalized and widespread. Astrid and Arturo were initially detained by Customs and Border Patrol (CPB) when they arrived at the border in 2015, but were released the following day. Since then, the family has lived an ordinary life in their community. They are pursuing a case of asylum to stay in the United States.
Amnesty also delivered a letter to the Philadelphia ICE Office. It reads, in part:
“There is no justifiable reason for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to continue to detain this family at Berks County Residential Center. They have a pending claim for asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. Astrid and Arturo have been an integrated part of their community since 2015. Astrid is in the eighth grade at Easton Area Middle School and has attended school there since the fifth grade.
“Furthermore, the detention of Astrid is in violation of the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement…it requires government officials to release children from custody ‘without unnecessary delay’ and to a parent or legal guardian, if possible. Under Flores, Astrid should have been released within 20 days, with her father. They have now been detained 32 days.”
Amnesty’s letter to ICE can be found online here.