Virginia Passes Bill to Regulate Immigration Detention Facilities
FAIR Take | October 2020
Virginia’s state legislature is now the latest to cave to open-borders groups and pass a bill attempting to regulate the detention of illegal aliens while they await deportation, a matter exclusively for the federal government under the Constitution. Some states, like California and Illinois, have passed legislation that aims to ban both private facilities and those run by state or local governments from housing these immigration detainees under contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and have been sued in response. Other states, like Colorado and now Virginia, have not banned them outright but could have a chilling effect on current or future contracts by imposing significant new regulatory burdens.
Senate Bill (SB) 5017, sponsored by Senator Jennifer Boysko (D-Fairfax), would redefine “local correctional facility” to include “any facility owned, maintained, or operated by any political subdivision or combination of political subdivisions of the Commonwealth that is used for the detention or incarceration of people pursuant to a [ contract or ] third-party contract with the federal government or any agency [ or contractor ] thereof.” This would cover the two immigration detention facilities in Virginia: Caroline County Detention Center and Immigration Centers of America (ICA)-Farmville. This will place both of them under the authority of the State Board of Local and Regional Jails.
The board could then:
- set sanitation standards;
- order unannounced inspections;
- prohibit confinement or require the transfer of prisoners in facilities it deemed substandard;
- review in-custody deaths; and
- require access to the facility for members of local governing bodies.
The bill was introduced on August 9, at the beginning of a special session called by Governor Ralph Northam (D). It passed two Senate committees in August, the Senate floor on September 15, and then the House of Delegates on October 2nd, along mostly party-lines votes except for a small number of abstentions.
The sponsor, Sen. Boysko, called it “a human rights and safety issue,” but in the debate on the bill, Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg) responded that “this is a national level issue and should be left up to Congress,” adding that he was “concerned that by trying to control ICE at a state level, interfering with a federal preemption law, we could risk losing all those jobs in Farmville.” ICA-Farmville is in Sen. Peake’s district and currently employs 240 people.
Tom Homan, former Acting ICE Director and now Senior Fellow at the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) has repeatedly defended contract Immigration detention facilities, saying, “nearly all of ICE’s large contractor-run detention facilities have twice the number of health care staff as compared to other federal, state and local facilities. … Of course, no one can guarantee that any one person will not be infected with the coronavirus, even in detention. But many detainees will be safer in ICE facilities where the population is controlled and there is ready access to doctors and medical care.”
The bill now goes to Gov. Northam, who is expected to sign it into law.