BY MEGHAN MCINTYRE
The Farmville Herald
A federal court in Alexandria reached a settlement agreement on Wednesday, July 6, that prevents the private Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in Farmville from detaining more than 180 people at a time during the next two years. The detention center, operated by Immigration Centers of America (ICA), can now resume accepting transferees only if they are vaccinated, asymptomatic and test negative for COVID-19.
Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg is the legal director of the Immigrant Advocacy Program at the Legal Aid Justice Center, one of the organizations that filed the lawsuit in August 2020 on behalf of 15 immigrants detained at the facility.
ICA-Farmville made headlines that year for a massive outbreak of COVID-19, which at one point saw 93% of inmates test positive and one death.
“ICE showed a reckless disregard for human lives when it transferred COVID-positive detainees to ICA-Farmville without adequate testing or isolation, even by the standards of what was commonly known in the summer of 2020” , Sandoval-Moshenberg said in a press release from the Legal Aid Justice Center. “This settlement will ensure that this never happens again.”
The regulations also specify that all dormitories in the detention center must be limited to 30 people and three must remain unoccupied unless necessary for the purpose of quarantine or medical isolation. If a COVID-19 outbreak occurs, defined as three positive cases among inmates or staff in the previous seven days, transfers to the facility will be suspended for 14 days.
The detention center has not been authorized to receive new detainees since August 2020 following the injunction issued by a federal judge. The number of detainees fell to single digits over the next two years.
One or two people have been held at the facility since Monday, July 18, Sandoval-Moshenberg said.
Representatives for ICE and ICA-Farmville Director Jeff Crawford have been contacted multiple times and said they would respond for comment. However, no response has been received from either as of press time. Farmville Mayor David Whitus and City Manager Dr. Scott Davis also did not respond to requests for comment at press time.