RICHMOND, Va. -- A local disability advocacy organization is being pushed into the public eye after receiving federal clearance to monitor immigration facilities housing residents with disabilities.
This week, the Henrico based agency "The DisAbility Law Center of Virginia" made a trip to a Virginia juvenile center that’s under fire for alleged abuse.
The Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Staunton, Virginia has been a focal point for immigration-rights protestors after abuse allegations at its facilities led to a civil rights lawsuit.
Gov. Northam directed two state agencies to investigate after teen immigrants being held at the facility reported that they were beaten while handcuffed, sent to solitary confinement for long hours., and other alleged abused.
Colleen Miller, the Executive Director of the DCLV, explained that her agency is aware of - and alarmed by - the federal lawsuit.
Last month, Miller says DLCV received a complaint about providing mental health treatment for children at that facility who have behavioral and mental health problems. While DLCV wasn’t initially allowed in, but a recent federal decision changed that.
“Our federal authority is that we can have access to any place within the facility. We can have unfettered access to the children, the people who are there. We can talk to staff, access their policies and procedures and under some circumstances we have access to the kids` records,” Miller said.
Miller said her team has already taken a tour of the facility and spoken with children about their complaints. Moreover, the DLCV is now allowed to monitor conditions photograph areas of the facility used by detainees.
Despite the complex web of immigration issues facing the United States, Miller said DLCV’s main goal is simple. “We are really there for the sole purpose of ensuring that the rights of kids with disabilities are protected. So, that's the right to be free from abuse and neglect.”
Staff members from DLCV plan to visit the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center again next week.
The agency also has access to other immigration facilities in Virginia and are mapping out a plan to visit those locations as well.