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COVID-19 cases nearly tripled in a week among detainees at Batavia detention center

Noelle Evans/WXXI

Eleven detainees have tested positive for the coronavirus at an immigration detention center in Batavia as of Wednesday. The number of confirmed cases has almost tripled since last week.

Last Thursday, when the first numbers out of Batavia were released, four detainees had tested positive for the virus.

The number of cases at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia is now second only to Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, where 15 detainees have tested positive.

There are 89 confirmed cases among detainees across the United States, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Currently, 25 ICE employees working at immigration detention centers also have confirmed cases.

Advocates with First Friends of NY and NJ, and Justice for Migrant Families in Buffalo have been calling for the release of those in custody since mid-March, when they say about 40 to 50 detainees were transferred to Batavia from Bergen County Jail, where a corrections officer had tested positive for COVID-19.

Around the same time, immigration attorneys raised alarm over lacking public health measures at the detention center’s court. One motion to adjourn was denied on March 18 on the grounds that "so far, there has not been an outbreak here."

Meanwhile, detainees have said that they don't feel safe and that social distancing isn't possible with the conditions they are in.

Noelle E. C. Evans is a general assignment reporter/producer for WXXI News with a background in documentary filmmaking and education.