Housing Humans For Profit Draws Protests

More than 70 people strong, a small caravan made its way through the quiet streets of Farmville July 27 to protest a private jail for undocumented immigrants being prepared for deportation.

“We were offering prayers for the detainees. We have lost our moral compass,” said Elena Ceberio, a protestor and member of the Pullen Memorial Baptist Church of Raleigh, N.C. Its pastor, Rev Dr Nancy Petty, led the protest.

The target was the Farmville Detention Center, a facility owned by Immigration Centers of America, a Richmond-based firm formed a decade ago to cash in on a rising wave of anti-foreigner fervor.

It is part of a trend towards private prisons that started around the 1980s. By the end of the 2000s, a number of firms saw a market in undocumented immigrants and smelled opportunity.

In the Farmville case, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement contracted with the City of Farmville to house immigrants who are to be deported. In turn, the city has a deal with ICA, which built a 772 –bed facility on the industrial outskirts of town. The city has been getting a dollar a day per prisoner, plus taxes and other benefits that reach about $250,000 a year.

The detention center has long been the focus of periodic protests but President Donald Trump’s in-your-face stances against foreigners have put the issue on the front-boiler.

There have been protests galore regarding Trump’s policies on the southern border that include building new sections of a wall and housing asylum seekers, most from Central America, in camps, often separating families.

Outrage hit a high point this summer when a photograph was released showing a drowned father holding his dead child on the banks of the Rio Grande River after they tried to cross the border. The image helped spark the Farmville protest, according to a press release by Rev Dr Petty.

As over-the-top Trump may be on immigration, the ICA facility has its roots in a wave of anti-immigrant concern dating to 2008. President Barack Obama contributed by increasing deportations of undocumented workers. In fact, records show that Obama deported considerably more people than Trump, despite Trump’s rhetoric.

According to the news outlet Axios, Trump at most deported 282,242 during one fiscal year period. Obama hit a high of 409,849 deportations in fiscal year 2012.

Richmond businessman Russell Harper of Harper Associates L.L.C., a donor to the state Republican Party, founded ICA. He and his colleagues formed ICA about the time there were strong anti-immigrant moves, especially in Northern Virginia.

In Prince William County, for instance, a building boom fueled by lax mortgage lending requirements created a shortage of construction workers. Many immigrants of Hispanic descent flocked to the county and others in Northern Virginia to build homes. Some were undocumented.

When the real estate market deflated during the 2007-2008 economic crash, construction workers found themselves without jobs. Some stayed in mostly white counties such as Prince William where some locals grew to resent their presence.

They, in turn, begat such xenophobic political firebrands as Corey Stewart who was then chairman of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors. Citing the threat of immigrants and wrapping himself up in the Confederate flag (although he is from the Midwest), Stewart ran unsuccessfully for higher offices.

Such was the climate when ICA was formed. Since then, Trump has flamed latent anti-immigrant hatreds among some whites while also sparking a considerable backlash from advocates.

Recently, ICA has tried to open immigrant detention facilities in Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and California without much success. When contacted, an ICA official referred all inquiries to ICE, which has yet to answer an email.

The Farmville facility has largely stayed off the radar screens of the state media, although a recent outbreak of mumps closed the private jail to visitors for several weeks.

The city, meanwhile, continues to collect its per diems and taxes on the backs of detained immigrants.

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10 responses to “Housing Humans For Profit Draws Protests”

  1. CrazyJD Avatar

    >>The detention center has long been the focus of periodic protests but President Donald Trump’s in-your-face stances against foreigners >>

    Really? You think his stance is against ALL foreigners, because that’s certainly implied in your post. We need less disingenuous discussion about this stuff. How about a little bit more nuance? Your post reads like what Hannity complains about from the left: always with the Xenaphobic, homophobic, environmental polluting Republicans narrative. Why do you play into his hands? The man is not very bright and can easily defeat himself. The lady you on the left have to worry about is Liz Wheeler.

  2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

    Peter, is there a difference between illegal and legal immigration? Does a sovereign nation have a right to control its borders? How come the MSM never draws a distinction between legal and illegal immigration? Do you think that, in the absence of illegal immigration, businesses would likely have to pay higher wages to U.S. citizens and lawful immigrants? Do you think that’s a bad idea? Do you think it’s fair to the millions of people in this nation who have followed the immigration laws to ignore them for people who didn’t follow them? If businesses can refuse to comply with the immigration laws, can they also decide not to follow other labor laws (say OSHA, Wage & Hour)?

    What’s the difference in honesty between Joseph Goebbels & his sickening crowd and the MSM? Both have distorted facts and language for political gain. I’d love to question any member of the MSM live on the Internet or on their media shows.

  3. True: Trump is anti-illegal immigrant. False: Trump is anti-immigrant. The Left routinely conflates legal immigrants with illegal immigrants to scare the legal immigrants into the Democratic camp.

  4. Peter, is there any evidence of mistreatment of the inmates of the Farmville detention center that can be traced to the for-profit status of ICA? If not, what does ICA’s for-profit status have to do with anything?

  5. Steve Haner Avatar
    Steve Haner


    Well, the Trump administration is still standing in front of this pathway, for one. There is alot of noise out there and the MSM has blown most of its credibility, but it seems like the animosity is toward immigration period, for cheap political gain. As for Peter’s attack on this facility, and its operators, he does at least admit the policy goes back to Obama, and bottom line is either we enforce the law or we don’t. Many on the left make no bones – don’t enforce it at all, let ’em all in.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      re: ” Many on the left make no bones – don’t enforce it at all, let ’em all in.”

      Nope. That’s simply not true. SOME of the FAR LEFT may think that – but it’s NOT representative of many on the left – who do NOT want the dreamers deported and who do not want the families of the dreamers deported without some path to citizenship.

      Thats a far cry from “let them all in” but it seems to be the rallying cry of those who basically opposed any policy to deal with the dreamers.

      Let’s be honest about it.

      Very few on the left actually have a “let them all in” attitude but the folks on the right -give that as THEIR excuse as to why they have no proposals other than “deport them all”.

      How about it? Give me the moderate right proposal on immigration. What is it?

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        Yes, Larry, let’s look at the facts. At one of the Democratic presidential candidates debates, Julian Castro argued for repeal of Section 1325 of Title 8 of the United States Code, which says it’s a federal crime to enter the country without authorization. Seven of the ten candidates for president, including Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg indicated that they supported repeal. Moreover, all of them stated that they supported giving health insurance to illegal immigrants. The Democratic Party is so radical that my grandfather who never voted for a Republican in his life and ranted about Herbert Hoover’s policies the rest of his life would be pulling the lever for Trump in 2020.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: Obama did it too. Nice try but not true. Obama would NOT deport the dreamers while the GOP and Trump have been less than clear about that.

    IF the GOP and/or Trump said that we are NOT going to deport the dreamers but we ARE going to deport any/all undocumented that are guilty of crimes – as a priority – AND then proposed some specific policy about the others – instead of the perception that any undocumented, even dreamers will be deported…

    then we have a problem because some folks want to deport any/all of them and that’s simply not going to fly with most Americans.

    We can disagree – we DO disagree – but we have to find a path that we can live with – as opposed to what we are doing right now which is throwing bombs at each others.

    You can join the “blame the other side and let’s throw bombs” folks are you can can try to find a reasonable solution to support.

    Right now – it’s an all or nothing proposition with the GOP and TRUMP.

  7. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    I do not know about the record of how ICA treats its inmates. ICE has not responded to my email yesterday. The only way to really find out would be to FOIA ICE documents but I don’t have the time or resources for that. It could be a job for some of the new journalism non-profits like Virginia Mercury, Vadogwood or the Virginia Center for Investigative Journalism.
    Larry, you are right that Obama had a better idea on immigration but then, so did George W. who pushed a comprehensive reform bill. It was flawed but still a step in the right direction. I did want to point out that Obama was no slouch when it came to tough measures on immigration, despite what the Trump-infused right-wing echo chamber would have you believe.
    Immigration reform is very complicated since most illegals overstay visas. Adjudicating cases can take years. Ask me, I helped Americans and Russians get visas when I was in Moscow. For a foreigner, getting a visa can mean whether a U.S. Consul likes your looks. Trump has provided ZERO guidance other than racist insults and the Wall which will do very little to solve the problem since few illegals come that way.

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Peter – you are certainly correct about overstaying one’s visa. And we need strong enforcement and a rapid process to address those cases. There should be no need to probe beyond whether X had a visa and whether he/she overstayed it. If X has other reasons why she/he believes there’s eligibility to remain in the United States, that should be raised separately by the individual. It should not be a defense to overstaying one’s visa.

      And we need to make E-Verify mandatory for all but the very smallest employers and impose draconian penalties for violations. Indeed, I heard a proposal that would restrict the deductibility of employee and contractor compensation for federal income tax purposes for any covered employer that does not have 100% compliance.

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