Four detainees have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Buffalo Federal Detention Facility in Batavia, New York, a lawyer representing the federal government told a court on Thursday.
Prisoners’ Legal Services, a legal organization that represents people detained at the facility, had previously filed a lawsuit requesting the release of detainees who are immunocompromised and would be particularly at danger if they catch the coronavirus. U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. Vilardo rejected their request that the detainees be released and instead ordered U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to implement the Center for Disease Control guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus within the facility.
During oral arguments on Thursday, a federal attorney representing the Department of Homeland Security told the court that four detainees at the facility had tested positive for COVID-19, according to attorneys from Prisoners’ Legal Services.
Documented reached out to ICE for comment on the cases. The agency did not respond by the time of publication.
Fears of an outbreak of the coronavirus in immigration detention facilities have caused widespread panic across the country. According to ICE, 35 detainees have tested positive for COVID-19 across the country. This does not include the four mentioned on Thursday. ICE told congressional staffers that it would be releasing hundreds of “vulnerable” detainees across the country. There are approximately 35,000 people in immigration detention across the country.
Detainees at the detention facility in Batavia told Documented that they were scared for their lives in detention.
According to court filings in the same case, the detention facility holds 650 detainees and it was detaining 374 individuals on March 30, 2020. Although advocates and lawyers have reported that some detainees have been released since then.