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Coronavirus Outbreak, Two Hospitalized, at ICE Facility in Farmville


An outbreak of COVID-19 at an ICE detention facility in Central Virginia has advocates worried. More than 100 people detained there have now tested positive for the virus.



Immigration and Customs Enforcement has not reported any deaths at the facility in Farmville, but they do say two people have been hospitalized for respiratory issues. 


Attorneys and advocates say they’ve heard of worsening conditions inside the facility. Adina Appelbaum is with the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition. 


“People are really sick. Our clients are really suffering,” said attorney Adina Appelbaum of the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition. “We are just hearing horrible things on the phone from them. People are scared for their lives. We have clients who are being held in segregation just because they’re sick, who are banging on the door for 90 minutes screaming for help and no one is coming. It’s a terrible human rights crisis.” 


An ICE spokesperson disputes that characterization, saying the men detained in Farmville who have COVID-19 are getting care and that most are asymptomatic. Officials say they’ve provided masks and hand sanitizer. 


About a month ago, more than 70 people were transferred to the Farmville facility from detention centers in Arizona and Florida. A spokesperson says those transferred individuals were quarantined from the existing population. 


But advocates argue that the corresponding spike in positive cases indicates there haven’t been sufficient measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus. Attorney Nick Marritz, of the Legal Aid Justice Center, says officials need to stop moving people around in the middle of a pandemic. 


“Farmville should stop letting itself get used as a dumping ground for ICE’s public health problems,” Marriz said. “Release the detainees who don’t have COVID and the ones that do have COVID let them go quarantine.” 


Advocates say the situation puts other folks in detention, staff, and the surrounding community at risk.

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

Mallory Noe-Payne is Radio IQ's Richmond reporter and bureau chief.
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