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Proposal for ICE Juvenile Center in Northern Virginia Meets Opposition

The Trump administration wants to build a new detention center for children in Northern Virginia. And, the idea isn’t all that popular in the region.

Northern Virginia is home to one of the largest communities of immigrants from South America in Virginia. And now places like Fairfax and Prince William and Loudoun are all potential locations for a new shelter for unaccompanied minors — a 440 bed facility with two acres of outdoor space, classrooms and sleeping areas.

Simon Sandoval-Moshenburg of the Legal Aid Justice Center says it’s a telling sign of where the administration thinks things are heading in the future. 

“They’re really investing in the long-term continuation and expansion of the detention of immigrant children," he explains. "They’re betting that the United States will continue to detain more immigrant children for longer.”

Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson says he was shocked to find out his city was listed as a potential location for the facility.

“We were very much taken aback. It came out of the blue," Wilson says. "And I think our concerns about the administration’s immigration policy at the macro certainly impacted our view of becoming a part of that.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declined a request to be interviewed for this story, although a spokesman sent a written statement saying the search for a permanent facility is being pursued “to reduce the potential need for unlicensed temporary influx shelters in the future.”

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.