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Immigration advocates protest ICE facility handling of asylum seekers post-release

Jennifer Connor

Braving freezing temperatures over a dozen immigrant rights advocates stood outside of a Batavia Citgo gas station Thursday to call for the humane treatment of individuals just released from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement-run Batavia Federal Detention Center.

The gas station is significant because it is alleged the released asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants are being dropped off there with little clothing and little in the way of reaching their families—many of whom live hundreds if not thousands of miles from Western New York. It is estimated around 100 immigrants have been released to that specific Citgo station in the past month.

Kawaiye Jumale’s brother went through the detention center and was dropped off at the gas station although he was not part of the most recent releases. She is appalled by the treatment he and others faced while trying to create a better life for themselves in the United States.

“When he was released, he was released at this station,” she said of the Citgo gas station. “And I have to say, from just listening to the volunteers speaking; how has it been possible? How could we call ourselves the City of Good Neighbors and Americans, this big powerful empire that they themselves been immigrants that were seeking for home, for shelter? And for a place to call home and do that to others who came here seeking for that?”

The problems with the releases at the gas station speak to a larger issue with ICE said Partnership for the Public Good Policy Advancement Director Tanvier Peart. She said it time for the state to act ahead of any federal legislation.

“We really need for our state to do what the federal government has yet to do,” Peart said of passing legislation to avoid this problem. “And if the federal government is not going to detach and decouple and dismantle ICE then we need to keep our people safe.”

Ahead of any proposed state or federal legislation regarding ICE Justice For Migrant Families Executive Director Jennifer Connor has a list of demands she believes will lessen the dehumanization and traumatization of the recently released.

“One; stop detaining and transferring immigrants to Batavia in the first place,” she said. “Two; treat people with basic humanity. Three; transport and support people don't leave them in a rural place without resources. Call upon your legislators to contact the Buffalo ICE field office.”

Connor has been in contact with an ICE Community Relations Officer who tells her they will be bringing the situation at the gas station to the attention of leadership.

Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Thomas moved to Western New York at the age of 14. A graduate of Buffalo State College, he majored in Communications Studies and was part of the sports staff for WBNY. When not following his beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats and Boston Red Sox, Thomas enjoys coaching youth basketball, reading Tolkien novels and seeing live music.