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July 3, 2018

The ACLU of Virginia strongly objects to the Caroline County Board of Supervisors’ recent decision to enter into a contract agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to use a former county facility to hold immigrant detainees.

Under the agreement, announced today in a news release from the county, DHS will pay the county for use of the former Peumansend Creek Regional Jail to imprison people rounded up under the Trump administration’s on-going inhumane and unconstitutional attack on undocumented immigrants. We flatly object to the use of local or state facilities in Virginia for this purpose, as well as to the county’s economic development justification for an action that enables the zero tolerance policy of the Trump administration. That policy has resulted in the separation of families and indefinite incarceration of migrants whose only crime is seeking a better life.

As the effective date of the contract is July 1, it is unclear whether DHS is already using this facility or how many people are being imprisoned there. Neither the contract term or the amount DHS will pay the county were included in the county’s statement.

According to minutes of county board meetings, the contract was approved following a series of closed-door discussions that took place over several months. County officials have told us the contract was approved on June 28, which was the second of two reconvened meetings following the board’s regular meeting on June 19.

While the legality of these closed-door sessions is still to be determined, it is clear that the Board purposely kept the public in the dark until this contract was in effect. Thus, the residents of the county had no opportunity to provide any input on whether they agree that this contract is in their best interest or the interests of the community. Moreover, it appears that the board improperly invoked a FOIA provision that allows closed meeting consideration of awarding contracts to vendors who will be paid by the county in order to protect the county’s bargaining position; using that provision to discuss a contract in which the county will be paid for renting beds to the government is clearly outside the scope of this exception.

We urge local residents to hold their elected officials accountable for this action taken in secret and without their consent, and demand that the supervisors take immediate action to rescind the contract.

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