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February 25, 2021 - 2:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Buffalo Federal Detention Facility, batavia, news, notify, ice.

Officials with Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) don't see things the way a group of activists in the area do when it comes how detainees at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility are being treated in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Activists say the conditions have led to two detainees going on a hunger strike. An ICE spokesman confirmed that as of Feb. 18, there were two individuals on a hunger strike. It's unclear if that's still the case. One person familiar with the facility indicated one of the hunger strikers may have been returned to Canada.

Representatives of Justice for Migrant Families of WNY, which is based in Buffalo, claimed during a press conference on Tuesday that during the recent COVID-19 outbreak, COVID-positive patients have been kept in solitary confinment, that conditions in the facility are unsafe and represent a health threat to the Genesee County community, particularly since, in their view, detainees are being held purely for violations of immigration laws.

ICE officials dispute these allegations.

JMF played two recordings of men they said were detainees at the facility who were on hunger strike.

One man identified himself as Raul (no last name provided).

"I am doing this because I suffer from depression almost every night and I throw up and that's why I'm doing this," Raul said. "I have PTSD. I suffer a lot. And that is why I am doing this."

He added, "I want them to release me. I cannot hold on being here longer. I don't know. I suffer a lot from depression and I am afraid that I will get infected with the virus because I have heard there are a lot of infected people here."

We asked Jennifer Connor, executive director of the organization, if anybody from the group had spoken to Raul and warned him that not getting proper nutrition could weaken his immune system and potentially put him at greater risk, and she said, "The hunger strikers are putting their health at risk. They certainly are, and no one undertakes that lightly.

"It is something that people have resorted to when they are truly desperate. It's a real cry for help. They are essentially saying, 'if if you do not hear me, if you do not end this suffering, then I am going to risk my life to make my voice heard.' So I don't think people take that risk lightly."

A spokesman for ICE said facility personnel closely monitor detainees on hunger strike:

In general, ICE fully respects the rights of all people to voice their opinion without interference. ICE does not retaliate in any way against hunger strikers. ICE explains the negative health effects of not eating to our detainees. For their health and safety, ICE closely monitors the food and water intake of those detainees identified as being on a hunger strike.

ICE’s detention standards concerning hunger strikes may be reviewed here.

Raul claimed that detainees are not required to wear masks. The ICE spokesman said detainees are issued five masks upon entry and can request new masks as needed. They are required to wear them in common areas but not required to wear them in their own housing units.

Connor and Mary Rutigliano, a local resident who is a member of the Rochester Rapid Response Network, complained that contractors who work as guards at the facility as well as facility employees are not required to be tested for COVID-19.

Rutigliano expressed a lot of concern about employees coming and going from the facility as they could be asymtompatic carriers. 

"(Batavia) is the gateway between the Finger Lakes Region and Buffalo," she said. "So people moving through, stopping in Batavia. That's a huge issue for two big regions in our state."

A source familiar with the facility said ICE has no authrority under the law to require anybody to get tested or to receive a vaccine.

Connor and Rutigliano both complained about COVID-positive patients being kept in solitary confinement.

According to our source, there is no such thing as "solitary confinement" at the facility.  

When The Batavian toured the facility in 2018, we learned there are isolation rooms for people who might be infected with communicable diseases as well as rooms that can be used to isolate detainees involved in conflicts for a cooling off period. 

Detainees, however, are not cut off from the world as they would be in solitary confinment in a prison. They retain, for example, their iPads.  

The ICE spokesman said, "Individuals who are exposed to infectious illnesses are cohorted from non-affected detainees in accordance with CDC  (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines. Within these separate areas they are still free to walk about and engage with each other and staff."

Previously, The Batavian was told COVID-positive detainees were cohorted in two pods and not intermingled with non-COVID detainees.

The only solution to the problems outlined by the activists, Rutigliano said, is for the population of the facility to be reduced but the facility can house more than 600 detainees. The current population is 139, or 35 percent of its capacity, the ICE spokesman said.

A source familiar with the facility said more than 80 percent of the current population are people referred to immigration by state and federal courts because of criminal cases and the rest are held by order of the immigration court. ICE is not holding people at the facility on its own authority. Since the start of the pandemic, ICE has maintained a policy of releasing everybody who can safely be released, the source said.

August 5, 2020 - 12:51pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Buffalo Federal Detention Facility, news, notify, ice, immigration.

Even though officials at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility were able to contain an initial outbreak of COVID-19 back in April and there have been no new cases since, the New York American Civil Liberties Union apparently filed a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement on behalf of inmates at the facility.

The lawsuit claimed vulnerable detainees were not given proper protection and the terms of a settlement reached this week, the NYACLU told WXXI, will ensure those protections are in place if there is another outbreak at the facility.

In April, there were 49 detainees who tested positive, all housed in two pods segregated from the rest of the facility's population, and most were asymptomatic. All recovered without the virus spreading out of those two pods.

A source at the facility at the time said because of the closed nature of a detention facility, all detainees are considered vulnerable, not just older detainees. As a result, staff has taken several measures to contain the spread of the virus, a source told The Batavian in April.

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, the source said in April.

The facility can hold 650 detainees. Today, a spokesman for ICE said the facility has maintained about a 300-person detainee count since the outbreak to help ensure social distancing is maintained.

ICE issued the following statement about the settlement:

“The facility’s response to the public health crisis has been exemplary. There are currently no active cases of COVID-19 at the facility. The men and women employed at BFDF, including the dedicated medical professionals with ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC), are the best in their field and have taken extraordinary precautions to keep both our detainees and staff safe,” said ICE ERO Buffalo Field Office Director Thomas Feeley. “The settlement reached has affirmed the value of the proactive measures previously undertaken, which has protected both staff and detainees.”

There have been news reports of a "surge" of COVID cases at ICE facilities but there have been no new cases at the facility in Batavia since April and the ICE COVID-19 information page reports fewer than 50 detainees nationally have tested positive, with the largest count, 15, at a facility in Lousiana.

April 30, 2020 - 6:57pm

Genesee County's active case count for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 should go down dramatically on Saturday when all 49 detainees at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center who were placed in mandatory isolation are declared recovered.

Only three detainees have been symptomatic.  

"This is a huge win for us," said a source from the facility who spoke on the condition we not use his name because he's not authorized to speak in behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The source previously told The Batavian that staff at the center took an aggressive approach toward the novel coronavirus as soon as the pandemic became an issue. There is an ongoing effort to keep the facility sanitized including wiping down every door handle with bleach every hour.

It's possible three detainees, two from New York City and one from State Corrections, brought the disease into the facility, the source said previously.

If things go as expected, by Saturday there will be no positive COVID-19 cases at the center.

Ten days ago, The Batavian reported that only three of the 45 detainees who tested positive for COVID-19 were symptomatic. The next day, ICE added four more detainees to the positive list. None of the symptomatic detainees required hospitalization according to the source. There have been no more positive tests at the facility over the past week.

Previously: Source: Most detainees in Batavia immigration facility who tested positive for COVID-19 are asymptomatic

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.

February 12, 2009 - 10:38am
posted by Philip Anselmo in weather, emergency, snow, winter, wind, ice.

Roads around Genesee County are getting ever worse throughout the day today. Snow and rain have added to the already bloated mix of melted ice and snow from yesterday. Some roads are barely navigable at this time. Add to that the winds that are bringing down power lines across the region, and you've got a messy situation out there.

In the past half hour, we've heard of two reports of downed wires over the scanner.

Poles and wires have come down on Molasses Hill Road near Chaddock Road in Alexander. Another pole along with wires are blocking a roadway in Attica. We haven't yet got the report on that exact location, but crews are out trying to get things cleaned up as quickly as possible.

Conditions are even worse in Wyoming County, where the winds are whipping even more fiercely. Dan Fischer reports that the office of emergency management there has put out a general travel advisory for motorists. It reads: "Caution should be used when traveling in Wyoming Co. due to damage from high winds including downed utility poles and power lines. Be prepared to seek alternate routes as some roads have been closed due to blockage."

You can find out more on area closings by visiting the WBTA Web site.

January 22, 2009 - 7:56am
posted by Philip Anselmo in weather, winter, ice.

We've got a winter weather advisory in effect until noon today. From the National Weather Service out of Buffalo:

Patchy freezing drizzle will be found across the region into the late morning hours. The freezing drizzle will likely produce a very light glaze on untreated surfaces, with the greatest potential for trouble being found on sidewalks.

Temperatures will lift throughout the day, and we may even get up above freezing.

Here's a look at the current Thruway conditions:

January 15, 2009 - 10:43am
posted by Philip Anselmo in police, roads, driving, winter, commute, ice.

Scenes similar to this clean up yesterday at the site of a head-on collision on Clinton Street Road in the city have been common over the past few days. Below zero temperatures have kept the road salt from doing its work and frequent snowfalls have kept the plows more than busy.

In response, the city of Batavia police have issued a statement urging motorists to drive cautiously and maybe drive a little more slowly than they normally would.

In the past 24 hours the Batavia Police Department has investigated about 15 motor vehicle accidents. Only a few resulted in minor injuries. With the extreme cold weather conditions and the snow we have received, the city streets remain slippery and icy especially at intersections. Even after being treated, the intersections and streets become icy quickly with the near zero temperatures we are experiencing.
 
We are asking all drivers in the city to use extreme caution and to slow down, especially when approaching intersections.

January 14, 2009 - 7:38am
posted by Philip Anselmo in wbta, weather, winter, ice.

Temperatures have settled at about 4 degrees, or nearly 30 degrees below freezing, in the Batavia area this morning. As a result, area police have cautioned motorists to be wary of black ice on the roads. Even those roads treated with salt have iced up in some spots, according to WBTA's Dan Fischer.

Fortunately, there's no significant wind to push that cold all the more insistently into our faces today. Unfortunately, that won't be the case tomorrow when more wind develops and could yank the temperature down near -17 degrees. Expect more of the same on Friday.

A well-written article this morning in the Buffalo News has some tips on how to get through the "deep freeze." For example: You may want to keep your water running just a little bit so that it doesn't freeze in the pipes.

January 7, 2009 - 9:10am
posted by Steve Ognibene in winter, storm, ice.

This morning I was awakened by the phone and a delay by the school district because of the weather.  We are waiting for the salt trucks to make the roads safe for children to get to school.  The freezing rain that had started last night continues to fall and just makes a mess of the streets in Batavia.  I took a clip of the roads by my house and just listen to the crackling sounds:

This weather makes it very difficult to get around to school, work or really any outdoor activity.  I would rather have snow than this freezing rain any day.  How do you feel about the weather we have had in the last couple weeks?  What are others thoughts on this subject?

 

 

January 7, 2009 - 7:36am
posted by Philip Anselmo in weather, winter, storm, ice.

Many area schools are already delayed this morning to help give highway crews time to get the roads salted. Ice is the main problem right now. Wind will become the hazard this evening. As for the best news of all: expect more of it, throughout the day today.

A winter weather advisory issued yesterday by the National Weather Service that was supposed to run through 5:00pm today has been extended through the evening until 5:00am Thursday. From the advisory:

Freezing rain will produce very slipper conditions across the area this morning. A changeover to all snow and increasing westerly winds will make driving hazardous tonight.

Freezing rain will change to occasional rain and drizzle this morning. Additional ice accumulation of less than one tenth of an inch expected. Expect periods of snow tonight with 1 to 3 inches possible by Thursday morning. Accumulations of 2 to 5 inches are likely well south of Buffalo and Batavia. The snow will also be accompanied by westerly winds gusting up to 35 mphs at times.

Here's a look at conditions out on the Thruway at the Batavia interchange:

January 7, 2009 - 7:25am
posted by Philip Anselmo in wbta, schools, Le Roy, weather, ice.

Several area school districts have delayed opening school for two hours as a result of icy roads, according to WBTA's Dan Fischer. They include: Batavia City Schools, Attica, Le Roy and Pavilion. Fischer reports that a number of roads simply have yet to be salted.

In other news, 40 workers have been let go at Lapp Insulators in Le Roy. On its Web site, the company is described as "a world-leading manufacturer of high voltage ceramic and composite insulators for the global electric utility industry." A loss of 40 employees will bring the total workforce down to 98. There is no news on the WBTA site as to why the company enforced the lay offs.

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