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January 20, 2021 - 2:28pm

Protesters outside Buffalo Federal Detention Facility concerned about COVID protocols

A couple dozen protesters outside the Buffalo Federal Detention Center in Batavia yesterday afternoon wanted to be heard by detainees inside so they know there are people who support their health and safety, said Mary Rutigliano.

Rutigliano, a Genesee County resident aligned with the Rochester Rapid Response Network, said there have been COVID-19 positive detainees transferred to Batavia and five of the detainees are on hunger strike.

"If you make enough noise, people on the inside can hear," Rutigliano said. "Last week, we were outside of the ICE field office where Thomas Feeley works, the same office as Delaware North in Buffalo, letting them know and this was part of an effort to let the people here know they don't have as much of a community, (but) there are people out here in this rural area that support them and want them to keep up their efforts."

Feeley, the director of the Enforcement and Removal Office in Buffalo, said there are only two detainees on hunger strike. One was transferred from New Jersey for medical reasons (BFDF has its own medical unit) and his current immigration case is under appeal.

The other case, he said, is being deported and his hunger strike just started.

As for COVID-positive cases in the facility, Feeley said there are currently three in the facility. One was arrested by the border patrol, the other transferred from an outside hospital, and one was arrested and transferred from Boston. All are asymptomatic, he said, and are quarantined.

Rutigliano claimed that there is a COVID-positive person in a pod with 40 other detainees. Feeley said that wasn't accurate. His statement also contradicted Rutigliano's claim that there are symptomatic detainees in the facility. 

Yesterday's protest drew the attention of State Police after dispatchers received a complaint that protesters were blocking the entrance to the facility. A trooper on scene said the protesters moved to an open space next to the gate when three patrol units arrived. The protesters ended their chanting and banging on pots and pans and dispersed a short time later.

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