BATAVIA N.Y. (WROC) — Local organizations that focus on helping asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants released from ICE Detention facilities are accusing the Agency of mishandling these people as they’re released from custody.
In the last few weeks, those with the Justice or Migrant Families of Western New York and Volunteers from Rochester say ICE Agents based in Batavia have been dropping off asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants at the Citco Gas station. Which is not new, but lately done in larger numbers without any help for them to get home.
An increase in undocumented immigrants released from ICE Custody claiming to be asylum seekers is what local activists have been fighting for. But they feel how it’s allegedly being done in Batavia is setting these people up for failure as they’re taken to a nearby gas station and left with no means of transportation, proper clothing, or ways to ask for help.
“People are being released with no coats,” Ketura Bixby told us. “They may not even have their own clothes and are wearing this essential prison uniform. If they do have their own clothes they might get released in shorts. Most of them don’t speak enough English to be able to purchase a ticket. I had to translate once for someone who was just asking where the bathroom in the gas station is.”
Local activists argue even though these people crossed over the U.S Southern Border ICE is still shipping them all the way up to Western New York, thousands of miles from any family they have in the country. Setting them up for failure when they’re released.
“A lot of people don’t really know where they’re at,” Bixby added. “They may not understand what state they’re in or have a sense of U.S geography to even know how long it takes to go somewhere.”
“It is dehumanizing and traumatizing,” Justice for Migrant Families of Western New York Director Jennifer Connor said. “We’re talking about people who are at the last leg of arduous journeys. Transport people to transportation hubs. Let them go to their families and communities.”
We reached out to Immigration Customs and Enforcement who responded to us in a statement by explaining “All detainees were issued weather-appropriate clothing, each had a few hundred dollars for tickets/necessaries/etc., all had their personal property, most had cell phones. Although we provided free calls to any that wanted/needed them before leaving Batavia. Finally, we work with local NGOs to provide services like hotel rooms/flight arrangements.”
Also, in a recent memo sent out by Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, as of November 29th ICE says they’re “adopting new guidelines of enforcement.” Like prioritizing only those who are a threat to national security or public safety face deportation and not solely on citizenship status.
Leaders of the Justice for Migrant Families in Western New York and other volunteers said they continue to assist undocumented immigrants at the Batavia Citco gas station by providing them snack bags, communication to families, and rides. If you would like to donate to Justice for Migrant Families of Western New York, click here. To help Rochester Rapid Response Network, click here.
Activists for these organizations plan to hold a press conference Thursday afternoon.
News 8 will keep you updated with new developments.
ICE responded with a statement Tuesday night, saying
When releasing detainees, the ICE Buffalo Service Processing Center in Batavia, New York, uses a local business that serves as a bus station/gas station/convenience store, in which bus tickets can be purchased. On Monday, Dec. 6, ICE released eight individuals in one group at this location. As a result of a large number of people already at the business when ICE arrived, the people released by ICE were temporarily unable to enter the business.
ICE acted and ordered its drivers to remain on location to provide a warm, safe space for people to wait for the backlog of customers to clear. Prior to leaving the ICE detention facility earlier that morning, detainees were provided unlimited, free of charge phone calls, food, adequate funds to purchase transportation, personal property was returned, and they were provided with weather-appropriate clothing, as needed. Most also had personal cell phones. Additionally, ICE worked with local NGOs to provide further services, such as hotels or flight arrangements.