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Farmville ICE Detainee Dies After Positive Coronavirus Test

Prison fence
Stock image of a prison fence.

A man held in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Farmville -- just 60 miles south of Richmond -- died at Lynchburg General Hospital Wednesday night.

James Hill, a 72-year-old Canadian national, tested positive for COVID-19 in July, although the cause of his death is still undetermined, according to an ICE spokesperson. A month before he began showing symptoms of the coronavirus, an immigration judge had ordered Hill could return to Canada 

According to a press release, Hill arrived at the Farmville Detention Center in April, after serving more than 13 years at the Rivers Federal Correctional Institute in North Carolina. He was convicted in 2007 for “health care fraud and distributing a controlled substance.”

Hill was held in the same ICE facility in Farmville that has recently reported a spike of COVID-19 infections. Currently, 225 people detained at the facility are being monitored or under isolation after having tested positive. That’s about 75% of the facility population. Since February, the center has reported a total of 290 positive coronavirus cases.

The COVID-19 outbreak at the Farmville facility -- which followed the transfers of people from centers in Florida and Arizona that tested positive for coronavirus after their arrival -- has ignited calls from local advocates to release everyone detained. 

A spokesperson for Gov. Ralph Northam said in a statement the governor is “deeply saddened” by the news of Hill’s death, and that “everyone deserves protection from this virus, no matter their immigration status.”

“While the state is unable to enter this property without permission from the facility, the Governor has pushed for months to gain access for increased testing and disease management,” the statement reads. “In fact, the Department of Health has repeatedly attempted to assist with testing but has been denied by this center — only last week, after the Governor went directly to the President for assistance, did the CDC agree to intervene for widespread testing.”