(AP) Since 2008, Virginia’s local and regional jails have housed at least 19,882 immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, according to data collected by the State Compensation Board, but officials say the number is likely much higher.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that data collected by the State Compensation Board shows that between 2008 and 2015, jails housed at least 14,460 immigrants who were in the U.S. illegally. The board says there were another 5,422 offenders in jailers’ custody, pending deportation.
Virginia lawmakers passed a bill sponsored by Republican Del. Dave Albo in 2008 that requires jails to report annually on the number of people in their facilities who entered the U.S. illegally.
Officials say the data doesn’t show the total picture. The immigrant or citizenship status of tens of thousands of inmates over that time period could not be definitively established, and officials say many of them are likely residing here illegally.
“Most of those, in my opinion, are most likely not lawfully present in the United States,” Albo said. “But they just never had any interaction with the government, so we just don’t have a record of them.”
The Prince William-Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center housed the largest number of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, according to the data. That facility reported housing more than 5,600 immigrants.
The data obtained by the newspaper through a Freedom of Information Act request doesn’t show why the immigrants were held in jail or what crimes they were charged with.