Thirty detainees out of 260 have tested positive for COVID-19 at the Batavia Detention Center in Buffalo, where Ingrid Hernandez-Franco, a 31-year-old woman from El Salvador, is being held.
In the fall, Franco spoke over Zoom to students in “The Time and Space of Immigrant Detention in the U.S.,” a class taught by Professor Jane Juffer, director of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies program and literatures in English. Franco detailed her harrowing experiences of seeking asylum in the U.S. — an attempt to escape from gang violence that targeted her for being a lesbian.
Franco had met Juffer, the director of the feminist, gender and sexuality studies program, when Juffer visited the Batavia Detention Center in January 2019. Since then, Franco’s story jumpstarted several projects to address the prevalence of experiences like hers.
These issues have been magnified during the pandemic, with detainees at higher risk for COVID-19. In early December 2020, Franco and several other detainees were moved to Rensselaer County Jail in upstate New York — in an abrupt but precedent move. She was then transported back to the Batavia facility in early February.
“It was very ugly. When the guards told me we were going to move, I said to myself, ‘Wow, with COVID?’” Franco told The Sun. “We had to get up at 3 a.m., I cried when they put handcuffs on our wrists and ankles with chains connecting them.”