Thirty detainees have tested positive for the coronavirus at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, the center’s second COVID-19 outbreak since the pandemic began.
According to a status update letter dated Feb. 19 from U.S. Attorney James Kennedy to U.S. District Judge Lawrence Vilardo, the virus had spread to three housing units and enhanced protections were put in place for those detainees. The protections are court-mandated due to the Ramsundar v. Wolf case that followed the facility’s first outbreak in April 2020.
However, Amy Belsher with the New York Civil Liberties Union says that the most vulnerable detainees need better protection, like the kind a vaccine could provide.
“Were they not in ICE detention they would qualify under the state’s priority guidelines as people who are either over the age of 65 or who have underlying medical conditions,” Belsher says
The NYCLU sent a letter to the state last week requesting information on plans to distribute vaccines to people in detention. It has not yet been answered, although ICE officials did say that vaccines for detainees are distributed by local and state health departments.
Jennifer Connor from Justice for Migrant Families says that detainees need to be released and testing should be mandatory for staff.
“The detention center has not proven itself, in any way, of being able to take care of people,” Connor says.
There are nearly 260 detainees at the facility as of Friday.