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Report alleges protest response behind detainee transfer to Farmville

A recent story by The Washington Post added more information about why federal authorities ignored local concerns and moved ahead with a June transfer of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees from COVID-19 hot spots in Arizona and Florida resulting in a widespread outbreak at the Farmville facility, infecting more than 300 detainees and staff members.

The Friday, Sept. 11, story by Antonia Olivo and Nick Miroff said a Department of Homeland Security official with direct knowledge of the operation said the transfer was pushed through despite the risk to get around a rule prohibiting ICE officials from flying aboard charter flights unless detainees are on board.

In addition to moving detainees to the

Immigration Centers of America (ICA) Farmville detention center, the report alleges the plane also carried a special response team headed to Washington to help quell protests.

Farmville Mayor David Whitus said the decision to bring in new detainees endangered the community.

“The town was disappointed that the local ICA facility was compelled to take out of state detainees during a pandemic – this certainly placed ICA employees and thus our community at greater risk,” Whitus wrote in an email Monday, Sept. 14.

The outbreak caused the death of a Canadian national, James Thomas Hill, who was being held at the facility while awaiting a return to Canada.

Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine issued a statement requesting an investigation into the reasons behind the transfer of detainees.

“We are outraged by the recent news report,” the statement said. “The transfers callously put federal employees, the Farmville community and detainees at risk, in what appears to be an effort to add more federal agents to forcibly disperse peaceful protestors in Washington D.C. this summer.”

The statement said the senators would demand more answers from DHS and ICE and request an investigation from the Office of the Inspector General.