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Anti-ICE group wants meeting with town

After three months of utilizing the Farmville Town Council’s public comment period to submit testimony about the mistreatment of immigrant detainees, a coalition of activists asking that the Town of Farmville end its contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has requested a meeting with town officials to further state its case about abuse and neglect the group alleges has occurred at the Immigration Centers of America detention facility on Waterworks Road.

“It’s been three months now since the first time we testified in front of the council and asked you to end the town’s contract that supports the ICA Farmville detention center,” Dina Cruz of Free Them All Virginia told the board. “You as the town’s elected officials have a chance to help shut down the facility so that no one else has to go through the physical and psychological torture of being imprisoned that I see in Farmville. The Free Them All Virginia coalition is still waiting for you to meet with us to discuss the issue in more depth and so that we can answer any questions you have.”

After the meeting, Mayor David Whitus said no meetings have been scheduled so far.

“We’ve been awaiting your response since June, and we hope that you’ll schedule this meeting as soon as possible given the urgency of the situation,” Cruz said.

The Town of Farmville receives approximately $20,000 per month from ICE for serving as the third-party ICE and the private ICA company.

Luis Oyola, the director of organizing at Legal Aid Justice Center in Charlottesville, said now would be an opportune time for the Town Council to make the decision to close the facility. He said the detention center has just over a dozen detainees currently. Oyola said Monday, Aug. 16, that an injunction in the case of Santos Garcia v. Wolf in the Eastern District of Virginia is preventing ICE from transferring any additional detainees to the Farmville ICE facility.

“If we allow a future when transfers to ICA Farmville begin again, using ICA’s track record of negligence as a predictor for what will happen, it is almost guaranteed that the events of June 2020 of last year will happen again,” Oyala said of the COVID-19 outbreak at the facility that resulted in the death of a Canadian citizen.

Oyala said a current COVID outbreak is happening at an ICE facility in Tacoma, Washington.

“Is the $120 a day you earn from the community held at ICA Farmville worth the beatings, worth the medical abuse, worth the torture that people go through so that you can have that money?” Cruz asked the Town Council. “Your decision, or lack of decision, can literally mean someone’s life or death.”

As has been the case with other public comment periods concerning the ICA detention facility, the Town Council had no reaction and made no comments concerning the issue.