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Today, we want to highlight the recent efforts of our Immigrant Justice Program. The Immigrant Justice Program advocates alongside immigrant communities to end mass detention and deportation of immigrants in Virginia and to break the ties between immigration enforcement and local and state government and law enforcement. We work to ensure that immigrant communities remain intact and protected in Virginia, fight the separation of immigrant families and the exclusion of immigrant youth from state benefits like in-state tuition, and protect young immigrants across the Commonwealth, whether they are in federal custody or in their communities.  

This past week, our team has been hard at work pushing serious reform to immigration policy in Virginia as a part of the Free Them All Coalition of Virginia.

The ICE Out of Arlington coalition continues to push the Arlington Board of Supervisors to revise the “Trust Policy” to incorporate two changes that prevent the criminalization of immigrants: first, by removing the police’s discretion to contact ICE, and second, by allowing the police to accept all forms of identification. These two changes will protect immigrant community members at risk of being criminalized and trapped in the jail-to-deportation pipeline.

On Saturday, March 16th, we participated in the ICE out of Arlington campaign’s actions at the Bozman Government Center to raise our voices against local police involvement and cooperation with ICE. Community members and supporters provided powerful testimonies against Arlington County’s voluntary collaboration with ICE at the Arlington County Board’s public meeting.

LAJC continues to collaborate with Tenants and Workers United to end the Alexandria Sheriff’s voluntary collaboration with ICE. The Sheriff continues to transfer community members to ICE voluntarily, beyond what is required by law. Our team has represented a number of these noncitizens transferred voluntarily by the Sheriff, and it is for these clients and the many other impacted community members that we continue to fight against local law enforcement collaboration with ICE.  

We filed requests seeking updated data on the Alexandria Sheriff’s policies and practices regarding transfers to ICE detention; supported our partners at Grassroots Alexandria in meeting with the Sheriff regarding this issue; and continued to track cases of voluntary collaboration as they arise. In March 2024, the Immigrant Justice Program spoke at the St. Joseph Catholic Church alongside TWU, at the invitation of their Social Justice Committee, to educate approximately forty of their members about this issue and our ongoing campaign. It was a productive community conversation that provided education, garnered support, and encouraged open discussion on the topic in the community.

On Tuesday, March 12th, we joined Drive Virginia Forward and Dreamer Mothers In Action (DMIA) at Governor Youngkin’s Office to deliver over 3,000 signatures in favor of extending the duration of driving privilege cards to 8 years. The bill for the extension has already passed out of the Senate and is awaiting the Governor’s action.

LAJC and the Free Them All Virginia Coalition continue to work to permanently shut down the Farmville Detention Center, which began holding immigrants again in 2023. The facility has been notorious for its many incidents of brutality and use of force, abuse, neglect, solitary confinement, retaliation, and inadequate health care and food. Due to the mounting community pressure to permanently shut down Farmville, in September 2023, the Town of Farmville expressed interest in withdrawing from its ICE detention contract in advance of its March 29, 2024, expiration date. Although Farmville has remained committed to not renewing the contract, a request for proposal recently posted on Prince Edward County’s website suggested that another private company with the same owner as the company on the Farmville contract, Abyon LLC, and Prince Edward County are planning to move forward with executing a contract with ICE.  

On Tuesday, March 12th, and Wednesday,13th, our team members attended the Prince Edward County Meeting and the Farmville Town Council Meeting, respectively, as part of the Free Them All Coalition, to advocate for the closure of the Farmville Detention Center. While our team, partners, and many community members were prepared to speak up at the Board meeting on March 13, the Prince Edward County officials unexpectedly opted to hold any conversation about the ICE contract in a closed meeting and then held a vote with no public notice. The vote took place without any meaningful public input, hearings, or transparency. Following this meeting, our team, along with the organizations of the Free Them All Virginia Coalition, issued this press release after sending a letter to Prince Edward County to demand they void the new contracts with the Farmville detention center due to violation of Virginia’s public meeting laws.

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