Today, 109 organizations, coalitions, and law firms from Virginia and around the country, including LAJC, joined together to demand that Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas close the privatized ICE detention center in Farmville, Virginia and release every detained immigrant. You can read the letter here.
For over a decade, Farmville has been a site of well-documented abuse, mistreatment, and medical neglect of immigrants in custody. After ICE and the facility’s private operators horribly mismanaged a COVID-19 outbreak in July 2020, leading to hundreds of serious illnesses and one death, a federal court ordered the facility closed to new intakes, and the facility’s population—normally well over 700—is now down to 12. But ICE continues paying tens of thousands of dollars to the private company that owns the Farmville facility, in order to resume large-scale immigrant detention operations once the pandemic ends.
“The signatures on this letter show that our communities are united to demand an end to human rights abuses in Farmville,” said Flor Lopez Trejo, community organizer with the Legal Aid Justice Center. “The Farmville Detention Center must not be allowed to abuse one more immigrant, break up one more family, or claim one more life. Everyone detained in Farmville must be released.”
“Secretary Mayorkas has testified to Congress that he is ‘concerned about the overuse of detention, where alternatives to detention would suffice,’” said Monica Sarmiento, executive director of the Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights (VACIR). “Our coalition sees the closure of the Farmville Detention Center as a necessary step for President Biden to make a meaningful break from the immigration policies of his predecessor.”
“If Secretary Mayorkas is serious about detaining fewer immigrants and bringing a measure of humanity to a broken system, closing Farmville is the best way to start,” said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, Legal Director of the Immigrant Advocacy Program at the Legal Aid Justice Center. “During his campaign, President Biden promised to end privatized detention and incarceration. Secretary Mayorkas can cancel this private detention contract with the stroke of a pen. Why hasn’t he done it yet?”
Even with the court-ordered ending of intake at Farmville, ICE still maintains excess detention capacity in Virginia. ICE operates a smaller detention center in nearby Caroline County which ICE currently uses to detain not only immigrants from Virginia and Washington, DC, but also dozens brought to here from the US-Mexico border. For this reason, closing the Farmville facility would not result in large numbers of Virginia immigrants being shipped by ICE to out-of-state detention centers. The 109 organizations who signed today’s letter to Mayorkas are requesting a meeting with DHS and ICE policy staff, to explain their reasons why the Farmville facility should be closed and the dozen immigrants detained therein should be released.