Six-year-old Maddie asks a judge to free her and her father after 195 days at the Berks immigrant detention center

by Jeff Gammage,

The Philadelphia Inquirer. Updated: January 7, 2020

For now, Maddie isn’t going anywhere.


Two days of contentious legal arguments concluded Tuesday evening with no ruling on whether the 6-year-old Guatemalan girl, who has spent a record 195 days in the Berks County immigrant detention center, could soon leave with her father.

U.S. District Judge Joshua Wolson said he would rule as quickly as possible.

The fate of the girl, known by a first name, and her father, identified in court only as Mr. H., is being decided amid a broad public debate over the nation’s treatment of migrant children, and as advocates raise new calls and legal claims to try to close the Pennsylvania detention center.


The hearing featured testimony from a mental-health authority who said Maddie has become deeply depressed — and from the attending mental-health provider at Berks, who said the girl is fine.

Where the plaintiff’s witness saw a child so distressed that she’s become disheveled, the government’s authority saw a girl whose hair may have been mussed by the hood of her unicorn costume.

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