Feds appeal restriction at Virginia immigrant detention site

FARMVILLE, Va. (AP) — Justice Department lawyers on Tuesday appealed a federal judge’s order that bars them from transferring inmates to a Virginia immigration detention center that experienced a massive coronavirus outbreak.

The interlocutory appeal takes jurisdiction over the case from U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema and puts it in front of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

Brinkema issued a preliminary injunction in August barring transfers into the Farmville Detention Center. She issued the injunction after blaming the coronavirus outbreak there on a “bureaucratic circus” that allowed the transfer of a large group of detainees from Florida and Arizona without any quarantine, despite jail policies against such transfers.

In court papers, lawyers for the detainees cited a Washington Post report that said the transfers were made to facilitate the simultaneous transfer of Homeland Security tactical teams to quell summer protests in the nation’s capital.

Ultimately 90% of the nearly 300 inmates at the center tested positive for the virus, and a 72-year-old detainee from Canada died.

Federal authorities say the outbreak has subsided.

Simon Sandoval-Moshenberg with the Legal Aid Justice Center, one of the detainees’ attorneys, said Brinkema was correct to ban transfers into Farmville, and that the “ping-ponging of detainees” from various immigration jails has been a primary driver of outbreaks not just at Farmville but elsewhere.

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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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