Immigration Detention Company Handed Millions of Taxpayer Dollars Via PPP

A private immigration detention company accused of not doing enough to protect detainees during the coronavirus pandemic has received millions of dollars in relief through the government's Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

The program was created to provide loans to small businesses suffering from the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. And according to data released on Monday by the Small Business Administration (SBA), Immigration Centers of America (ICA), a private detention company based in Farmville, Virginia, was one of the businesses to benefit from that relief.

According to SBA data, ICA received anywhere from $2 to $5 million in support through the Paycheck Protection Program, with the loan receiving approval on April 9 through the Towne Bank.

ICA oversees detention services at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's (ICE) Farmville Detention Center (FDC), which has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, with more than 50 detainees contracting COVID-19.

According to data published by ICE, there have been 53 confirmed cases of coronavirus among detainees at the facility, with 49 of those affected currently under isolation or being monitored as of Tuesday.

Just last month, detainees held at the FDC spoke out about their fears of contracting COVID-19, with some telling CNN that they believed conditions at the facility were not safe.

As in other detention facilities across the country, detainees at the Farmville Detention Center told the broadcaster they were not able to properly socially distance due to limited space at the detention facility.

They also described fears around having to interact with detention workers who are free to come and go from the facility and who could potentially risk bringing the virus into the detention center.

Newsweek has contacted ICE and ICA for comment.

On its website, ICA says "it is the mission of the Farmville Detention Center to provide a safe, humane, and appropriately secure civil detention environment that offers an appealing alternative to the standard method of detention for federal immigrants while they navigate the immigration process."

However, detainees and immigration lawyers have said the conditions at the detention center are not safe for detainees during the pandemic.

"We have a real fear that we may have dead clients at some point," Brian Casson, an immigration attorney representing detainees at the facility told CNN in June.

While the ICA has received millions of dollars in support, businesses and non-profits supporting immigrants in the U.S. have also received PPP loans, including the Immigration Center for Women and Children, which received between $350,000 to $1 million in support and the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, which received between $150,000 to $350,000.

Protesters drive in a caravan around Immigration and Customs Enforcement El Paso Processing Center to demand the release of ICE detainees due to safety concerns amidst the COVID-19 outbreak on April 16, 2020 in El Paso, Texas. Similar calls are being made across the country. PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty