Familias Separadas : Harrisburg

Phase 2: Berks County Family Detention Center

Ortiz had unveiled Phase 2 of Familias Separadas in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Based on the interviews of four mothers formerly detained at the Berks family prison, she has installed eight large-scale public art installations. Each work of art highlights the messages and portraits of the mothers and their children. The installations include several 40-foot billboards, bus shelters, an 88-foot long painted image installed on the Capitol steps, and 35-foot mural in Allison Hill. The installations will be up from October 26th through November 18th, 2018.

Since March 2017, Ortiz interviewed mothers and children formerly detained for close to two years at the Berks Detention Center. The Berks County Family Detention Center, a prison outside of Philadelphia for immigrant families is one of three family prisons in the United States, where children as young as two-weeks-old have been incarcerated. 

The Center has a laundry list of human rights abuses which the Shut Down Berks Coalition organized on that led the PA Department of Human Services decision to not renew the license of the facility in February of 2016. Since then the county has appealed this decision and the license case has been languishing in bureaucratic proceedings which is why the coalition is calling for an Emergency Removal Order (ERO), and action the Governor can take at any point during the appeal. An ERO would ensure that families are not detained in the facility while the appeal case continues. 

Ortiz is working with the Shut Down Berks Coalition and with mothers from the fourteen families that were detained at Berks for more than 2 years.  During their time in detention, the mothers organized labor and hunger strikes as they fought for their freedom. 10 families were deported back to their home country returning to the violence they were fleeing, and 4 families were released in the United States still fighting against their possible deportation and living through the trauma of being detained.