Virginia may build a 1,000-bed detention center where illegal immigrants arrested for certain crimes could be held until federal officials deport them, the Washington Post reports. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said such a center would be the first state-run facility built to hold only illegal immigrants accused of crimes. Currently, illegal immigrants who are arrested are held in local jails, federal facilities, and private prisons.
Under the proposal, Virginia would finance construction of the center through bond sales and use it to detain illegal immigrants charged with crimes that usually do not trigger long prison terms. “What we are trying to do here is have enough bed space so every sheriff knows if they arrest an illegal immigrant on some of these charges, there is space for them until someone can pick them up,” said Sen. Kenneth Stolle, chairman of the state crime commission. Mukit Hossain of Project Hope and Harmony, a nonprofit group whose day-laborer hiring center that recently closed, called the detention center a “very, very scary proposal. If they need more detention centers, then by all means build more detention centers. But to categorically set aside something which is going to be a detention center for ICE and immigrants, it opens up a very problematic notion, including possibilities of human rights violations. And it will create fear in all immigrant communities.” In 2006, police and sheriff’s departments in Virginia notified ICE of about 12,000 illegal immigrants in their jails, but ICE picked up only 690.