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Buffalo Federal Detention Facility

April 20, 2020 - 8:58pm

Of the 45 detainees in the Buffalo Federal Detention Center who have tested positive for COVID-19 so far, only three are symptomatic, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The source, who asked we not use his name because he's not an authorized spokesperson for ICE, said all 45 detainees who are positive were living in the same pod when three detainees -- two from New York City and one from the NYS prison system -- were transferred into the facility.

The facility staff, he said, suspected the new arrivals were positive for COVID-19.  

Given the close proximity of living arrangements detainees are considered vulnerable; ICE was able to get all detainees in the affected pod tested.

A pod can hold as many as 72 detainees. 

The original pod now has 29 people in it who tested positive, and 20 more are alone in another POD. There are four people included in the two pods whose tests were inconclusive so they're being kept in isolation for the 14-day quarantine period. 

The spike in positives at the facility had more to do with the testing lab releasing a batch of results on the same day than a sudden outbreak of the disease.

Currently, there are 319 detainees in the facility. The peak capacity of the facility is 650 detainees.

Many members of the staff are not ICE employees but work for contractors. The source said only two staff members have tested positive and both are, last he heard, asymptomatic. 

Only a limited number of new transfers are entering the facility.

According to the source, at the start of the novel coronavirus outbreak, the director of the facility, Thomas Feeley, ordered regular, thorough cleaning, including wiping down door handles with bleach every hour.

"Every time you turn around," the source said, "you smell bleach."

There is medical staff on duty inside the facility 24/7 and posters have been placed in the facility to inform detainees about COVID-19 and how to protect themselves.  

So far, about 20 percent of the detainees have been tested, the source said. 

At the start of the coronavirus outbreak, detainees who were over age 60, had underlying medical conditions that made them vulnerable, but were not convicted of a serious crime such as murder or rape, were released from custody, the source said.

"Nobody was released who was a threat to society," he said.

April 20, 2020 - 6:00pm

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is now reporting that a total of 45 detainees at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility have tested positive for COVID-19.

As recently as Saturday, there were only 13 reported cases.

While ICE has stated previous detainees who tested positive were isolated and contract tracing was undertaken and that all CDC guidelines have been followed, there has been no information released that might explain the sudden spike in cases.

The following information was released about the 32 people who most recently tested positive:

  • a 35-year-old Guyanese national,
  • a 39-year-old Guatemalan national,
  • a 29-year-old Colombian national,
  • a 51-year-old Jamaican national,
  • a 36-year-old Jamaican national,
  • a 27-year-old Liberian national,
  • a 25-year-old Dominican national,
  • a 45-year-old Jamaican national,
  • a 32-year-old Indian national,
  • a 23-year-old Indian national,
  • a 23-year-old Mexican national,
  • a 26-year-old Bosnian national,
  • a 37-year-old Burkinabe national,
  • a 30-year-old Ivory Coast national,
  • a 53-year-old Indian national,
  • a 41-year-old Jamaican national,
  • a 32-year-old Indian national,
  • a 27-year-old Salvadoran national,
  • a 41-year-old Guyanese national,
  • a 39-year-old Dominican national,
  • a 36-year-old Jamaican national,
  • a 28-year-old Salvadoran national,
  • a 33-year-old Guatemalan national,
  • a 38-year-old Honduran national,
  • a 26-year-old Guatemalan national,
  • a 54-year-old Mexican national,
  • a 39-year-old Honduran national,
  • a 49-year-old Dominican national,
  • a 21-year-old Salvadoran national,
  • a 29-year-old Cuban national,
  • a 23-year-old Salvadoran national,
  • and a 42-year-old Dominican national.

The next highest number of detainees who have tested positive in an ICE facility is 20 at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego County, and 20 at Richwood Correctional Center in Monroe, La.

April 18, 2020 - 4:49pm

There are 30 new positive tests for COVID-19 reported in Genesee County, with 29 of them among detainees at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility. 

On Thursday, there were only 11 reported cases at the facility, with one added on Friday and one on reported by ICE this morning, but ICE has not yet released an update to include the apparent 27 additional cases (we are seeking an update from the ICE spokesman).

There have now been 122 positive tests reported in Genesee County since the start of the pandemic. The Health Department has not released an updated count for the number of current active cases and number of recovered patients.

As of this morning, ICE was reporting 20 detainees infected at the Richwood Correctional Center in Monroe, La., now the next highest number of positive cases at more than two dozen facilities in the U.S. that house immigration detainees.

This story will be updated if more information becomes available.

April 11, 2020 - 11:30am

An additional three detainees at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia have tested positive for COVID-19.

That brings the number of detainees who have tested positive at the facility to seven.

The Batavian reported on the first four cases on Friday. In the original story, we said detainees who tested positive were not included in the countywide count based on information obtained from the Health Department. The Health Department has since corrected that previous statement and said detainees, as well as COVID patients at other federal and state facilities in the county, are included in the county's numbers.

As of this morning, the County is reporting 70 positive cases locally, and 49 active cases, 20 recoveries, and one death. It's not known at this time if the three new ICE cases are yet included in the county's count.

We've requested from an ICE spokesman more information about the three new cases.

So far, ICE has not reported any employees at the facility as positive.

UPDATE 12:46 p.m.:  More information from ICE:

  • Two 21-year-old Salvadorian nationals, and a 35-year-old Dominican national in ICE custody at Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, New York, tested positive for COVID-19.

Consistent with CDC guidelines, those who have come in contact with these individuals have been cohorted and are being monitored for symptoms.

April 9, 2020 - 7:32pm

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has announced that four detainees in the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

A spokesman for ICE said the COVID-19 positive inmates are 

  • A 62-year-old Pakistani national,
  • a 29-year-old Somali national,
  • a 37-year-old Honduran national, and
  • a 31-year-old Honduran national

We asked about contact tracing and whether any contacts, including, potentially staff, were placed on mandatory isolation, the spokesman responded, "Consistent with CDC guidelines, those who have come in contact with these individuals have been cohorted and are being monitored for symptoms."

A total of 48 ICE detainees nationally have tested positive, and 15 ICE employees working at detention centers have tested positive, but so far there are no reports of an employee of ICE in Batavia testing positive.

Any people testing positive for COVID-19 at federal facilities in Batavia are not part of the positive-case count provided by county health officials.  The Genesee County Health Department is not notified of positive cases either the detention facility or the VA Medical Center. 

CORRECTION: The paragraph above was based on information provided by the Health Department. Today, we received an email saying this statement was incorrect and during today's briefing (April 10), Public Health Director Paul Pettit said positive test results from these facilities are included in the county's tally of positive cases.

However, Paul Pettit, director of public health, said today that if asked for assistance with contact tracing to check for community spread, that assistance would be provided.

Earlier this week, Justice for Migrant Families WNY, an advocacy group, released what it said is a statement authorized by several detainees in Batavia.  The statement indicated that detainees are concerned about the possibility of coronavirus in the facility because of numerous interactions with staff and the inability to properly social distance.

December 19, 2017 - 1:29pm

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Before her deportation hearing this morning, immigrant-rights protestors rallied outside the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia in support of Dolores Bustamante, a single mother who has been living and working in Wayne County.

Bustamante was taken into custody in 2014 when a trooper stopped her for a traffic infraction. Her attorney and supporters say the trooper violated State Police policy and constitutional protections by running an immigration status check on her. The trooper found she was in the country without proper documentation.

Her hearing was delayed until May this morning because the translator scheduled to handle the case couldn't speak clearly because of illness and no other translator was available.

Her attorney, Jose Perez, did make a motion to dismiss the case because Bustamante's rights had been violated by the trooper.

The judge refused to hear the motion because Bustamante's first attorney previously made factual admissions that Bustamante is from Mexico, was in the country without documentation, and admitted Bustamente was subject to possible removal.

That, Perez said, was a mistake by that attorney and could lead to a complaint to the New York State Bar for negligence and malpractice. 

The admissions potentially deny Bustamante the ability to challenge her arrest and deportation on constitutional grounds.

Once the complaint is filed with the Bar, the immigration judge can agree to hear and consider the motions.

Immigration-rights advocates in Central and Western New York are using Bustamante's case to highlight what they see as a disturbing trend under the Trump Administration to increase deportations, which are up 40 percent. 

Supporters say under the previous administration, Bustamante would not have as readily faced deportation because of her community ties, regular employment, and dependent children.

Perez said in May he will make the case that Bustamante would be granted asylum because she had been a victim of domestic violence in Mexico. Also, he noted, her son, who was not involved in gang activity in Mexico, was recently killed by gang members there, which could make it unsafe for Bustamante to return to Mexico.

NOTE: Information about proceedings in court this morning come entirely from the defense attorney in the case because of convoluted rules at the detention facility. For some reason, defendants are allowed only 10 friends and family guests in the courtroom, and for some inexplicable reason, journalists are included in that count. I agreed to leave so another family member could get into court, in part because of another inexplicable rule -- I couldn't have my mobile phone with me, even while attorneys were allowed their phones.  

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November 30, 2017 - 3:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Buffalo Federal Detention Facility, batavia, news.

A number of asylum seekers being held by federal authorities in Batavia must be granted bail hearings and the chance to be released on parole while their asylum petitions are pending, a Western New York District Court has ruled.

In a legal proceeding brought by the attorneys for two asylum seekers who were held for a time at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, the plaintiffs argued that the facility was violating a directive from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to review parole applications.

The attorneys also said their clients were being denied their legal right to a bail hearing within six months of detention.

Both procedures, the plaintiffs contend, changed in January, after President Donald Trump took office.

United States District Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford wrote the court's opinion that stated even though the ICE directive was an internal department document, it addressed specifically the rights of individuals and so, therefore, the detention facility was obligated to abide by the directive.

She also wrote that the asylum seekers retained their Constitutional rights, in accordance with prior court rulings, to a bail review hearing within six months.

Federal authorities argued that the asylum seekers should be considered as if they had been stopped at the border, and therefore not subject to Constitutional guarantees of due process, even though they were being held in Batavia, more than 3,000 miles from where they originally allowed into the country as asylum seekers.

Wolford noted "this decision does nothing to erode the Attorney General's discretionary authority to grant or deny parole. However, if Respondents follow the ICE Directive, individuals who are not likely to be a flight risk or a danger to the community will have been released on parole before six months has passed. Where an individual is detained for six months, Respondents should, under the ICE Directive, have a good reason for the continued detention and should, therefore, be able to readily meet the clear and convincing evidence of the standard of proof with respect to the denial of bond."

The primary plaintiffs in the case were Hanad Abdi and Johan Barrios Ramos. 

Abdi is a 26-year-old native of Somalia. He and his family were members of a minority tribe. Members of a rival tribe killed his father and captured Abdi and beat him. He managed to escape and fled his home country in June 2016. He arrived at the U.S. southern border Oct. 12, 2016, seeking asylum. Officials who interviewed him found there were credible reasons to believe he would be at risk if returned to Somalia so he was transferred to Batavia. Once in Batavia, his repeated requests for parole were denied. He was only released in August after he commenced litigation.

Ramos is a 40-year-old citizen of Cuba where he was involved with political opposition to the current regime. He was imprisoned for 11 months for his political activities. He fled Cuba in December 2016 and arrived in Mexico by raft. He traveled to the U.S. border and requested asylum on Jan. 14, 2017. He passed what is called a "credible fear" review, a finding that granted him preliminary asylum seeker status. Once transferred to Batavia, his repeated requests for parole were denied until litigation began. He was released Sept. 14.

The legal claim by the plaintiffs also sought class-action status so that any ruling might also apply to other asylum seekers being held in Batavia without being granted bail and parole hearings. Court documents list at least 20 such individuals.

The Attorney General's Office argued that with their release, Adbi and Ramos no longer had standing to pursue their legal claims nor to act as stand-ins for the class of asylum seekers being denied a chance at release.

Wolford disagreed, noting that the Attorney General's office could withdraw parole from Adbi and Ramos at any time. In fact, Adbi's parole already has been revoked. ICE, however, has no intention "at this time" of taking Adbi into custody.

The phrase "at this time," Wolford noted, is further evidence of the arbitrary nature of the government's handling of these cases, as is the fact that Thomas Brophy, acting director of the Buffalo ICE Field Office, did not articulate a reason for revoking Adbi's parole. Wolford also wrote that the ability of the AG's office to release individuals who bring suit shouldn't be a tactic for avoiding a class action ruling dealing with all the asylum seekers' cases.

March 30, 2017 - 12:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Buffalo Federal Detention Facility, immigration, news.

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Immigration rights supporters were at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia this morning to protest the detention of José Coyote Pérez, an immigrant who had been cleared to work in the United States but has been held in detention since Feb. 24 without explanation, according to his supporters.

The Worker Justice Center of NY released the following statement from Pérez:

“Last September a judge administratively closed my case, and I had so much hope to finally be a part of the community – I had a work permit, I was about to get my driver’s license, I was part of the community and represented my colleagues and I felt free finally, after living in fear for so long. People know me, I speak up, I am not hiding, and when they called me to go in and sign I went, I didn’t hide. It is so upsetting what is happening to immigrants. I’ve been here in jail for more than a month, without the chance to see a judge, and I don’t know why, not even my lawyer knows why. I have gotten phone calls, visits (from) the organizations I am a member of and even the students at Geneseo, too. This is what keeps me strong, the people who are fighting for me and helping me.” 

Pérez had been working in the United States for 15 years and has three children, all U.S. citizens. He's active with the Worker Justice Center in support of farm labor and immigrant rights.

Pastor Chava Reddonet, speaking in the top photo, said she came out to the protest today because she feels farmworkers are not treated fairly and now face new challenges with seemingly increased immigration enforcement.

She said farmworkers work harder than she can imagine.

"They do this day after day so they can send money home to their families and help them all to survive and then we punish them for being here," Reddonet said.

Jaqueline Travis, from the Syracuse area (second photo), came to the United States from Bolivia in 1997. She said she is proud of the farm work she and her fellow immigrants do. 

"I enjoy apples and my daughter loves cheese and yogurt and my husband loves milk in his coffee and we really do have great products," she said. "It’s a shame — (how) we are treating (farmworkers), these are my brothers and sisters, just like you are, and we are putting all of that aside ... These are the people who are making so much money for these farmers and I can’t make sense (of it). It makes me so sad that we can treat people like this and we can be OK with that and as a society we don’t even want to think about it. When you mention things like this, people get uncomfortable. 

She said people need to know what's going on.

"If this is what makes America great, then, I am sad and I’m so afraid for our farmworkers and everybody who brings food to our table," she said.

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July 21, 2016 - 10:31am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, news, Buffalo Federal Detention Facility.

A pair of kitchen personnel and a corrections officer at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia have been placed on leave after they were accused of feeding chicken picked from the garbage to Muslim detainees for their Ramadan meals.

The three workers are facing possible termination and the case has been referred to the Inspector General of Homeland Security.

In a statement, a spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said, “The agency takes all allegations of employee misconduct very seriously and will respond appropriately based on the investigative findings.”

The investigation is ongoing and no conclusive findings have been released. The names of the employees have not been released.

Via our news partner WBTA.

October 23, 2015 - 8:16am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, Buffalo Federal Detention Facility.

Kayode Ayodeji Animashaun, 30, no address provided, is charged with strangulation, 2nd. Animashaun is a detainee at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center on Federal Drive, Batavia, and was allegedly involved in an altercation with another detainee, which was reported Oct. 12. Animashaun allegedly struck the victim and placed the victim in a choke hold causing injury. Animashaun is scheduled to appear in Town of Batavia Court Nov. 30.

September 17, 2013 - 12:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Buffalo Federal Detention Facility.

On Friday, we reported on an inmate at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility who was taken to UMMC after missing 55 straight meals while on a hunger strike. We sought further information from Immigration Customs Enforcment and today received this statement from Vincent Picard, a public information officer with ICE:

A Liberian immigration detainee at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility was placed on Hunger Strike protocol by the ICE Health Service Corps Aug. 28 after missing nine consecutive meals. He was hospitalized Sept. 13 in order to ensure he receives appropriate medical care and supervision. The detainee, who was convicted of felony burglary in Virginia in 2011, has stopped eating in protest of his pending removal from the United States.

Over the last four years, ICE has focused on sensible, effective immigration enforcement that prioritizes the removal of criminal aliens and egregious immigration law violators.

The inmate remains hospitalized at this time.

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