Federal Court Settlement Places Strict Limits on ICE Detention at ICA-Farmville
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, a settlement agreement on claims for injunctive relief was reached in Santos Garcia et al. v. Wolf et al., a case filed by the National Immigration Project (NIPNLG), Legal Aid Justice Center (LAJC), and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP on behalf of fifteen immigrants detained at the ICA-Farmville Detention Center during the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak at the facility. Under the agreement, which will last for two years or until the CDC declares the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, ICA-Farmville will be allowed to detain a maximum of 180 individuals (roughly 25% capacity) and can only accept transfers of individuals who are vaccinated, asymptomatic, and test negative for COVID-19.
“While this settlement puts in place important protections for detained people from the threat of COVID-19 at ICA-Farmville, history has proven that immigrant lives are in danger anytime they are in ICE custody. On top of that, due to the injunction, there has already been a sharp decrease in the number of people detained at the facility over the past two years, demonstrating that the facility is not needed. Instead of continuing to waste enormous resources trying to keep ICA-Farmville open, the federal government should act with reason and humanity to shut down the facility and free all people detained,” said Amber Qureshi, Staff Attorney at the National Immigration Project.
“ICE showed a reckless disregard for human lives when they transferred COVID-positive detainees into ICA-Farmville without adequate testing or isolation, even by the standards of what was commonly known in summer 2020,” said Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg, Legal Director of the Immigrant Advocacy Program at the Legal Aid Justice Center. “Then they made matters worse by failing to ensure protection within the detention center, and failing to provide adequate medical care for those who got infected. Our clients are suffering the effects of long COVID to this day. This settlement will make sure that never happens again.”
“The government’s conduct towards our clients and all individuals detained at ICA-Farmville was unconscionable and inhumane,” said Naima Farrell of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP. “The government needlessly exposed our clients to a potentially lethal virus—the negative effects of which they continue to suffer—all so that the government could transport DHS personnel to Washington, D.C. to suppress racial justice protests and circumvent restrictions on DHS employee travel. This settlement agreement will ensure that the government does not treat our clients or their fellow detainees as mere collateral damage going forward, and will instead fulfill its obligations to protect the individuals in its care.”
In the summer of 2020, ICA-Farmville became the site of the largest COVID-19 outbreak in any immigration detention center in the country at the time. The outbreak was caused by ICE’s transfer of 74 people, 51 of whom had COVID-19, from detention centers in Florida and Arizona. ICE made those transfers as a pretext to enable it to quickly bring DHS agents to Washington, D.C. in order to suppress the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests. It was impossible to socially distance inside ICA-Farmville, causing COVID-19 to spread uncontrollably after it was brought to the facility.
As a result of the litigation, the court quickly ordered ICE to stop all transfers into the facility and ordered a health inspection of Farmville’s COVID-19 response. Now, thanks not only to the litigation but also to widespread community efforts, the privately-run immigration detention center that once held hundreds of people holds only two people, proving that the center does not need to exist.
The parties have separately agreed to resolve the plaintiffs’ damages claims against the federal government.