The following statement was received by Justice for Migrant Families WNY through USPS on April 2, 2020, from inside immigrant detention in Batavia. The statement was authored by a group of people who are currently detained inside the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility, dated March 30, 2020 and postmarked March 31, 2020, following a multi-day hunger strike in two of the units that has now concluded. This statement is a next effort to make their message heard. The original statement is transcribed below.
We, the detainees of the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility, in Batavia, New York, in this time of fear and confusion, plea with you, give voice to our situation as Civil Immigration Detainees.
We are detained at this Facility, which has a capacity for some six hundred and fifty detainees. Many of us are simply, immigration violators. We have come to this country, some with some form of visa that we have violated, admittedly, by being overstayers.
Many of us have come, begging at the doors for Asylum, seeking to avoid being tortured, raped and murdered by different regimes, or those the regime favor. Many of us come from countries, like El Salvador, to where if we are returned, because of the label of M-13 membership, will be arrested, tortured and murdered by the Government.
"...we do not deserve to be detained to die."
Even others are from Venezuela, seeking haven in this country, from a corrupt and ruthless regime, as substantiated by the United States. We are also from India, feeling the persecution of the Indian Government against Punjabis. We are many, who have, unfortunately been convicted of crimes, who have served our time, and are now in ICE/DHS custody, in immigration proceedings. However, not withstanding any of our personal conditions as detainees, we do not deserve to be detained to die.
The coronavirus pandemic is affecting the world and this country. The news reports show hourly, the amount of new cases, the lack of medication, staff and resources available to treat those afflicted. Most frightening is the escalation in deaths, in New York State, not to mention new cases in New York and the rest of this nation.
...we are like the proverbial lamb waiting to be slaughtered.
Being detained here, we are like the proverbial lamb waiting to be slaughtered. At BFDF [Buffalo Federal Detention Facility], there are on the average, a complement of 50 Detention Officers, all employed by AGS, aka Akima Global Services, a contractor to ICE/ DHS. Additionally, there are about twelve Clinical Staff, twenty Food Workers and another fifteen or twenty Maintenance Staff/ Janitorial Staff. These are employed by a different unknown contractor.
In each housing unit, there is an assigned Detention Officer, who is relieved at various times daily, by another Detention Officer. This occurs on the day and night shift.
In order to go to the Clinic, we are escorted by other Detention Officers. In the event of a Court date, we are escorted and pat searched by another Detention Officer.
The food we are served, is prepared and packaged by the Food Service workers of AGS.
If necessary, in the housing units, the Maintenance staff enter, to repair or swap out the microwave ovens, or ice machines. They come into the units to clear clogs in the waste disposal system.
The janitorial workers come into the units to clean the ceiling vents, range hoods, televisions, etc.
This alone should indicate the volume of interaction we experience on a daily basis, with others from the outside - ANY ONE OF WHOM CAN INFECT AND CAUSE ALL OF OUR DEATHS, perhaps unconscious of being a carrier of COVID-19.
We are fed the company line, that in Genesee County there are not many cases.
At BFDF, the rule of the day is to keep the contractors, especially AGS on the job.We are fed the company line, that in Genesee County there are not many cases. Yet, all of these individuals entering here, to include the Immigration Judges and Court Staff, are not all residents in Genesee County.
Yes, we are in immigration custody, but we are far from fools. Many of us have lived for lengthy periods of time in this country. We are well educated. Many of us were successful businessmen, medical professionals, service workers, and everything in between. We are aware that there are various other counties in Western New York -Niagara; Monroe; Erie, where many of the AGS staff live and commute to Batavia from.
None of the Security, Food Service, Medical, Maintenance or Janitorial Staff are prohibited from leaving at the end of their shifts. They go home, go out, go shopping, all normal activities. However, they are the only ones who would introduce this dread killer into our midst.
The DHS/ICE are not in the business of releasing detainees, even those within the highest risk categories.
The DHS/ICE are not in the business of releasing detainees, even those within the highest risk categories. There are cancer victims, cardiac patients, diabetics, lung disease victims, those afflicted with chronic auto-immune diseases being detained here.
Are we to be left to contract this disease and simply die? We are the sons and fathers; wives and mothers; brothers and sisters; grandfathers and grandmothers; friends and loved ones of others. Would the President own our deaths. How much longer would these cruel and inhumane immigration policies and laws result in suffering and eventual death?
How many must die before something is done about temporarily releasing us?
BFDF is only on of many detention facilities, mostly all run by these wealthy and connected contractors. How many must die before something is done about temporarily releasing us?
While the Government constantly contends that we are safer here or in detention than with our loved ones, how can that be rationalized? With the constant exposure to all these outside workers coming in, how are we safer?
The authorities persist in allowing removable individuals into BFDF, once their state sentences have been served. These individuals are brought into the facility without being tested for the Covid-19. Is this indicative of safety?
Each individual brought in from New York State incarceration is taken first, on buses, filled with other prisoners, and manned by NYSDOCCS guards. They are taken to Downstate Correctional Facility and placed in bullpens for processing. Following this, they are loaded into other buses, filled with prisoners for a two to five day trek to Wende Correctional Facility. The buses stop at other jails, discharging and picking up other prisoners, and then to Auburn Correctional Facility, where the prisoners [stay] overnight, in the filthiest cells you can imagine.
The next morning, the busload of prisoners is taken to Wende, and depending on the date of one’s release, be held for three days to be picked up at Wende, and brought to BFDF, by AGS Staff. Could the possibility of the exposure be negated by such protocol?
The collective conscience of the Government and those administering ICE/ DHS must be awakened.
We should not be sacrificed on the altar of corporate greed, to placate the Security Contractors. To be left here to be exposed and suffer to death must be of consequence. The collective conscience of the Government and those administering ICE/ DHS must be awakened. The rationale that we are criminals must be discounted…Immigration proceedings are civil, and we should not be re-convicted, and sentenced, to serve a political end.
We are well aware that this Facility is a huge boon to the local economy. It provides many jobs for the area. The men and women employed here, and in all detention facilities are at risk of contracting the Covid-19. Yet, their goal is-the dollar. They will continue coming in, until one of us gets infected by one of them, and the wildfire becomes uncontrolled.
Maybe, just maybe, the correct heart may be softened and we will be released to spend some time in freedom, than to die in detention.
Please, publish our stories, our fear and anxiety. Let the world know how we feel. To be left to contract this disease and die, without being able to see, or say something to our loved ones is our sad reality. Put our message out. Maybe, just maybe, the correct heart may be softened and we will be released to spend some time in freedom, than to die in detention. Do not let our lives be lost because of the almighty dollar. Our lives count, as does everyone else on this earth.
WE THANK YOU FOR READING THIS AND EXPRESSING OUR SITUATION TO THE WORLD.