A Rochester-based organization wants Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials in Batavia to allow a donation of hygiene supplies in order to protect detainees from coronavirus at their facility.
ICE officials say they can’t accept the donations and that detainees have sufficient access to soap and water for sanitary purposes.
Rochester Never Again, a grassroots group composed of Jews and allies who are against ICE enforcement operations, wants to donate 600 handmade face masks, over 500 bars of soap, over $600 for commissary funds, and hundreds of other hygiene products.
One of the group’s members, Ram Zallan, said he was moved to collect the donations after an open letter from detainees inside the detention center.
In the letter, detainees said they feared for their lives if they were to get infected by the coronavirus.
“The analogy they used was that they’re like sheep waiting to be slaughtered effectively,” Zallan said.
“And that language really opened our eyes on the whole topic of how COVID is affecting people inside Batavia. And it really harkens back to the Holocaust for me.”
In a statement, an ICE official said that ICE has provided appropriate personal protective equipment to the detainees, and that detainees have sufficient access to soap and water for sanitary purposes.
ICE is encouraging groups like Never Again to instead donate the hygiene supplies to local charities or organizations that support migrant families. Zallan disagrees.
“I don’t see why in a global pandemic they’re turning away soap that could be used by people,” Zallan said. “Like there’s just nothing wrong with it.”