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22nd March 2017, 12:13:00 UTC

Four young children and their mothers are seeking asylum in the US after escaping horrific violence in their home countries. They have been held at a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement centre in Pennsylvania for over 500 days despite having pending applications for legal permanent residency.

Antonio (7), Carlos (4), Josué (3), Michael (16) and their mothers Marlene, Lorena, Teresa and Maribel (all names changed to protect identities) have been held at the Berks County Residential Center, a US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention centre in Pennsylvania, for over 500 days.

Each family is seeking asylum in the US after fleeing traumatic and life-threatening events, including kidnapping threats and severe physical and sexual violence, in their home countries of Honduras and El Salvador. The Berks County centre currently holds 34 families, many of whom come from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, a region where Amnesty International has documented extreme levels of violence and insecurity.

The families report declining physical and mental health in the detention centre. Josué suffers from severe allergies, and his mother has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, which, according to an independent psychological evaluation, is worsening in part due to detention. An independent doctor diagnosed Michael with depression, while his mother has a visible lump in her breast that may require surgery.

Each of the four families has an unchallenged sponsor in the US who is willing to take them in and ensure their appearance in court. Despite this, their Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), compelling grounds for asylum and protection, and mental and physical health concerns, ICE officials refuse to release these four children and their mothers. There is no justification under US or international law to continue to detain these families.

Please take action now by calling on ICE officials to release these families.

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