Below is the letter we and 108 other organizations sent to the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security on December 14th, 2021, urging him to immediately end Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) contract with the town of Farmville, VA and close the detention facility located there.
December 14, 2021
Hon. Alejandro N. Mayorkas
Secretary of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
2707 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20528
Dear Secretary Mayorkas:
On behalf of coalitions, organizations and communities in Virginia and Washington, D.C., as well as supporters from across the United States, we urge you to promptly act to terminate the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contract with the Town of Farmville, Virginia and close the Farmville Detention Center, to bring an end to over a decade of well-documented abuse, mistreatment and medical neglect of immigrants in custody. We ask this Administration to fulfill its promise to our communities by “mak[ing] lasting improvements to our civil immigration detention system”  by ending immigration detention at ICA-Farmville.
ICA-Farmville has long forced detained immigrants to endure terrible conditions including excessive use of force, solitary confinement, and limited access to counsel and family members. Due to the facility’s mismanagement during the COVID-19 pandemic, in July 2020 more than 300 people in detention—93% of the population of those detained—became infected, in what was at the time the largest outbreak at any such facility in the country. One immigrant died as a result of ICA-Farmville’s cavalier attitude toward people in dentention’s health and welfare.
Unfortunately, this was not the first time someone died because of medical neglect at the facility. By ICE’s own account, in 2011, a 35-year-old man died while detained at ICA-Farmville due to the facility’s failure to properly provide a medical screening and delays in referring him to appropriate medical care.
Such abuses and mismanagement have only grown worse over the past two years. In 2019 and 2020, guards used excessive force against people detained who protested their unsafe conditions by deploying pepper spray and holding people in solitary confinement. By ICE’s own records, for years ICA-Farmville has been plagued by use-of-force issues, unjustified use of restraints, and unsafe contaminated food.
For this reason, several national civil rights organizations such as the ACLU and Detention Watch Network have identified ICA-Farmville as a priority for closure due its long history of egregious conditions. And yet, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trump Administration was planning to expand ICA-Farmville’s detention capacity, in order to detain more residents of Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Ending the ICE contract with the Town of Farmville will protect immigrants and their families across Virginia and Washington, D.C., and benefit all residents of those jurisdictions. Reducing ICE detention capacity in a state has been shown to reduce arrests that lead to immigration detention. We do not want our neighbors, our essential workers, and our immigrant communities to have to endure abuse in the facility; and we do not want to face a surge in policing and ICE enforcement activity in our communities just to fill currently empty beds, were the facility to re-open for new detained people. ICE is currently paying to maintain thousands of empty beds across the country at enormous taxpayer expense, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars.
Now is the time to act. Due to a court injunction resulting from ICA-Farmville’s mismanagement of the COVID-19 crisis, the facility currently holds an all-time low of 12 people in detention, down from an average of well over 700 prior to the beginning of the pandemic. Closing the facility would not result in a major disruption of operations.
The below-listed organizations urge your administration to exercise its option to end ICE’s contract with the Town of Farmville, and allow each of the remaining people in detention within the facility to submit a request for release on appropriate conditions of supervision. Cancelling this contract will not only put an end to ICA-Farmville’s long record of abuse, but it will also exemplify the Biden Administration’s commitment to fulfilling its promises of fair and humane treatment of immigrants across the nation.
We request a meeting with your office to discuss this matter. Thank you.
 U.S. Department of Homeland Security, “ICE to Close Two Detention Centers,” DHS (May 20, 2021), https://www.dhs.gov/news/2021/05/20/ice-close-two-detention-centers.
 Antonio Olivo and Gregory S. Schneider, “Northam, U.S. senators ask for CDC/s help with covid-19 outbreak at immigrant detention center,” The Washington Post (Jul. 29, 2020), https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/northam-us-senators-ask-for-cdcs-help-with-covid-19-outbreak-at-immigrant-detention-center/2020/07/29/0e5d96ba-d0ef-11ea-9038-af089b63ac21_story.html; Antonio Olivo and Nick Miroff, “ICE Flew Detainees to Virginia so the Planes Could Transport Agents to D.C. Protest. A Huge Coronavirus Outbreak Followed,” The Washington Post (Sept. 11, 2020), https://www.washingtonpost.com/coronavirus/ice-air-farmville-protests-covid/2020/09/11/f70ebe1e-e861-11ea-bc79-834454439a44_story.html; Jenny Gathright, “Inspection Finds ‘Systematic’ Failings in Farmville Immigrant Detention Center Response to COVID-19 Outbreak,” WAMU (Sept. 10, 2020), https://wamu.org/story/20/09/10/inspection-finds-systematic-failings-in-farmville-immigrant-detention-center-response-to-covid-19-outbreak/.
 ACLU, DWN, and NIJC “Fatal Neglect: How ICE Ignores Deaths in Detention” (Feb. 2016), Fatal Neglect ACLU-DWN-NIJC.pdf (detentionwatchnetwork.org).
 National Immigrant Justice Center, “Statement of the National Immigrant Justice Center, House Committee on Homeland Security Hearing, Oversight of ICE Detention Facilities: Examining ICE Contractors’ Response to COVID19” (July 13, 2020), https://immigrantjustice.org/sites/default/files/content-type/commentary-item/documents/2020-07/NIJCStatement_HouseHomelandSecurityCommitteeHearing_2020-07-13.pdf; Downs v. Hott, No.1:19-cv-00882 (E.D. Va.).
 La ColectiVA, “New Documents Illuminate a Dark Pattern of Abuse in ICA-Farmville” (Aug. 18, 2020), https://lacolectiva.org/farmvilleabuse, https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/7035556-Excerpt-From-ICE-FOIA-Re-Abuses-at-Farmville.html.
 ACLU, “Letter to DHS Secretary Mayorkas Regarding ICE Detention,” (April 28, 2021), www.aclu.org/letter/letter-dhs-secretary-mayorkas-regarding-ice-detention; DWN, “Detention Watch Network Escalates Communities Not Cages Campaign to Shut Down 10 ICE Detention Centers,” (Feb. 25, 2021), https://www.detentionwatchnetwork.org/pressroom/releases/2021/detention-watch-network-escalates-communities-not-cages-campaign-shut-down.
 “Settlement with Bristol County Sheriff Would Uphold Release of Immigration Detainees,” WBUR (Apr. 8, 2021), https://www.wbur.org/news/2021/04/08/bristol-county-sheriffs-office-ice-settlement; “ICE to Close Two Detention Centers,” Department of Homeland Security (May 20, 2021), https://www.dhs.gov/news/2021/05/20/ice-close-two-detention-centers.
Statewide organizations or coalitions in Virginia or Washington, DC:
ACLU of Virginia
The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis
Free Them All VA
The Humanization Project
Justice Forward Virginia
Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice Virginia
Legal Aid Justice Center
National Lawyers Guild – DC Chapter
New Virginia Majority
Virginia Civic Engagement Table
Virginia Coalition for Immigrant Rights
Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations
Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP)
Virginia Student Power Network
National organizations or coalitions:
African Communities Together (ACT)
Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center
Defending Rights & Dissent
Detention Watch Network
Doctors for Camp Closure
Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service
Muslim Voices Coalition
National Immigrant Justice Center
National Immigration Law Center
National Immigration Project (NIPNLG)
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
Rights Behind Bars
Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice
State or local organizations or coalitions outside Virginia or Washington, DC:
Aldea – The People’s Justice Center
Bend the Arc: Jewish Action – Maryland
Chacon Center for Immigrant Justice at Maryland Carey Law
Immigrant Action Alliance
Indivisible Central Maryland
Indivisible Howard County
Justice for Migrant Families WNY
Just Peace Circles, Inc
Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention
Mariposa Legal, program of COMMON Foundation
Maryland Against ICE Detention
Migrant Center for Human Rights
Our Revolution, Howard County, MD
The Peace and Justice Coalition of Prince George’s County Maryland
Together We Will Harford County/Upper Chesapeake, Inc
UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic
Local organizations or coalitions in Virginia or Washington, DC:
ACLU People Power Fairfax
Central American Resource Center
Central Virginia Sanctuary Network
Charlottesville Immigrant Freedom Fund
Congregation Action Network
The Dream Project
Friends United for Equity & Grassroots Organizing
Georgetown Law’s International Migrants Bill of Rights (IMBR) Student Organization
International Human Rights Law Clinic, American University Washington College of Law
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington
Metro DC DSA
Northern Virginia Family Service
Nova Branch DSA
Restoration Immigration Legal Aid
Richmond Southerners on New Ground
Showing Up for Racial Justice Northern Virginia
Sin Barreras Without Barriers
The Sistas In Prison Reform
Tenants and Workers United
United For Social Justice
Private law firms:
Benach Collopy LLP
Cruz Law PLLC
Dzubow & Pilcher PLLC
Grossman Young & Hammond, LLC
The HMA Law Firm PLLC
Immigrants First PLLC
Jezic & Moyse, LLC
Law Office of Dan D. Park
Law Office of Timothy W. Davis, LLC
Law Offices of Brenna Torres, Esq.
L&L Immigration Law, PLLC
Marmol & Marmol, PLLC
Manelis Law PLLC
Mason & Black LLP
Montecinos Immigration Law LLC
Norris Law Group
Powell Law PLLC
Raleigh Immigration Law Firm
Satnam Singh, PC
Smith Immigration Law, PLC
Sudeste Immigration Lawyers PLLC
Tohidi Law Office PLLC
Ungvarsky Law, PLLC
Yacub Law Office
Zeman and Petterson, PLLC