You could hear it as soon as you turned off County Welfare Road.

Making your way down Berks Road, the sound got louder as you approached the Berks Family Residential Center on Friday, July 17.

A line of vehicles — sedans and hatchbacks and small SUVs and even a white work van — creating a cacophony as the drivers slowly crept past the red brick facility. Some drivers opted for sustained blares of their vehicle horns, others went with staccato bursts.

The "honk-in" was the first piece of a full day of protests at the Bern Township center, one of three facilities in the U.S. where U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detains families with children seeking asylum. The more than 50 people who had gathered there by 11 a.m. were calling for the families held inside to be released.

"It's inhumane to jail children, it's inhumane to jail families," Ninaj Raoul, a member of Haitian Women for Haitian Immigrants told the crowd. "It just doesn't make sense."

The protest was organized by Shut Down Berks, a coalition of groups dedicated to closing the facility and freeing those housed there. It was intended to coincide with the release of children held inside, but that part didn't happen.

On June 26 a U.S. District Court judge ordered that all children being held by ICE had to be released by Friday because of dangers associated with the COVID-19 pandemic with or without parents. On Wednesday that order was delayed, with a release date set for July 27.

ICE officials declined to comment on the court rulings or the release of children and their families, citing ongoing litigation.

The county manages the center and is reimbursed by the federal government. In return, Immigration and Customs Enforcement pays to lease office space and provides about $1 million in revenue annually to the county. The center can hold a maximum of 96 people; however ICE officials said last week that only 13 residents were currently there.

Earlier this month, a Commonwealth Court judge denied a petition seeking the immediate release of the families.

The petition alleged that the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services had failed to take emergency action to protect those housed at the center from COVID-19.

The judge ruled that there wasn't sufficient legal cause to force the department to remove families. He also found that the department had presented convincing evidence that mitigation efforts were put in place at the center to prevent residents from being exposed to the coronavirus.

Despite this week's postponement, the July 17 protests continued.

Following the "honk-in," a rally was held led by Tsuru For Solidarity, a Japanese American group focused on immigration and refugee issues.

Group member Becca Asaki said it is clear why Tsuru supports closing the Berks facility. Her grandmother and her family, she said, were placed in an internment camp by the U.S. during World War II.

He grandmother was only 14 at the time, Asaki said. Her grandmother's youngest brother was just 3.

While detained, Asaki said, her great-grandmother died, in part because of the harsh conditions.

"This story is all too familiar for immigrants today," she said.

There is, however, one thing that's different, she added.

"We are here, on just the other side of the road of one of these camps, saying no," she said.

Dahoud Andre, a member of Committee to Mobilize Against Dictatorship in Haiti, echoed Asaki's message, saying detaining families is nothing new in the U.S.

"This is in the fiber of this country, what they're doing here" he said.

Andre said he felt it was important to take part in the protest so the detained families — some of whom were gathered at the far end of a soccer field on the facility's property — could see they are supported.

"It's important the people inside there know they're not alone," he said.

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