A COVID-19 outbreak unfolded in Virginia after ICE flew immigration detainees there so agents could be shipped to the nation's capital in response to protests

  • The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency flew detainees to Virginia so federal agents could be deployed to Black Lives Matter protests in Washington, DC, in June, The Washington Post reported. 
  • The immigration detainees were transferred to the Farmville Detention Center from Arizona and Florida in June. 
  • A COVID-19 outbreak then broke out at the facility, where 339 inmates tested positive. 
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The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency flew immigrant detainees to Virginia this summer so federal agents could easily be deployed to Black Lives Matter protests in Washington, DC. The trip to Virginia which fueled a coronavirus outbreak in a detention center, The Washington Post reported. 

According to The Post's report, a Department of Homeland Security official and an ICE official both said the department used the detainee transfer to circumvent rules designed to prevent ICE employees from taking chartered flights. Employees aren't allowed to use chartered flights unless detainees are also on board. 

After the immigrants were transferred from Florida and Arizona to the Farmville Detention Center in Virginia, dozens of them tested positive for the virus, The Post's report said. By the end of July, 339 inmates were infected, and one died. 

Henry Lucero, the Executive Associate Director of Enforcement and Removal Operations at ICE, told Business Insider in a statement that the June 2 transfer of detainees to Farmville "was made as part of a national effort to spread detainees across the detention network to facilitate social distancing and mitigate the spread of COVID-19."

Prior to transport, the agency conducts temperature checks and medically screens detainees for COVID-19 symptoms, an ICE spokesperson told Insider, adding that detainees brought to the facility on June 2 were quarantined on arrival for two weeks.

"There have been no new intakes into Farmville since early June," the ICE spokesperson said.

The spokesperson also said the transfer was part of the agency's effort to move detainees from more populated facilities to locations that house fewer people. 

Records compiled by Witness at the Border, an immigrant advocacy group that monitors ICE activity, did not indicate any other flights between Arizona and Florida to Virginia. 

ICE did not comment on the transport of agents to the Washington, DC, protests following the drop-off of detainees in Virginia.

Federal agents from different departments who were shipped in from different states patrolled Washington, DC, during protests that broke out after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

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