Virginia’s Lt. Governor Justin Fairfax weighed in last week on reports of alleged mistreatment of detained youth immigrants being housed in the Commonwealth.
Fairfax expressed concern with an Associated Press report regarding the alleged mistreatment and abuse of young Latino immigrants being held at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center.
“I have consulted with Governor Northam regarding this matter,” Fairfax wrote in a press release, “and the Governor has requested that his Administration investigate these allegations and promptly address any confirmed cases of mistreatment. I look forward to the findings of that investigation.”
Fairfax called recent national news stories “shameful and reprehensible” about the Trump Administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy.” The policy which the President has altered in an Executive Order resulted in children being separated from their families and detained indefinitely, and noted Fairfax, “in some cases in cages and tent cities.”
Fairfax said Trump’s actions “further highlight the need for leadership from the states to promote a humane and just immigration and criminal justice system. That is particularly true given the Trump Administration’s push for more punitively focused criminal justice policy specifically directed at members of immigrant communities.”
The Associated Press, in part, reported about Virginia’s center:
“The abuse claims against the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center near Staunton, Virginia are detailed in federal court filings that include a half-dozen sworn statements from Latino teens jailed there for months or years.
Multiple detainees say the guards stripped them of their clothes and strapped them to chairs with bags placed over their heads.
“Whenever they used to restrain me and put me in the chair, they would handcuff me,” said a Honduran immigrant who was sent to the facility when he was 15 years old. “Strapped me down all the way, from your feet all the way to your chest, you couldn’t really move … They have total control over you. They also put a bag over your head. It has little holes; you can see through it. But you feel suffocated with the bag on.”
Fairfax wrote, “If these reports are accurate, I believe we all need to work diligently and swiftly to fix this problem and ensure that our juvenile detention facilities are run with the highest standards and that our immigration and criminal justice systems are humane, just, and reflect our highest values and ideals as Americans.
On June 21, Governor Ralph Northam Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam directed state officials to investigate the allegations of abuse that individuals were beaten and placed in solitary confinement.
Northam noted that the facility where the alleged abuse took place is subject to state oversight, but the individuals housed there are subject to oversight from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement.