Published 9:21 a.m. | Updated 3:28 p.m.
Democrat Jason Crow, Colorado’s 6th Congressional District Representative, has “some serious concerns and questions” about the health and safety of roughly 1,500 potential detainees at a privately-run Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Aurora.
He has sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen.
“The expansion of the Facility comes on the heels of two varicella (chicken pox) outbreaks within months of one another, subjecting dozens of inmates to lengthy quarantines,” Crow wrote in a letter dated Feb. 20, 2019. “Of note, it is my understanding that the Facility only has one physician for the entire population, even after the recent increase in detainees.”
The company behind the detention facility, GEO Group, recently opened an annex that increased overall capacity nearly 40 percent. The congressman went to tour the detention center Wednesday, but was not allowed inside because his visit had not been arranged in advance. He plans to schedule another time to visit the facility soon.
After speaking with community groups last week and hearing serious concerns about the conditions at the ICE facility in #Aurora, I sent a letter to DHS this morning demanding answers. You can read my letter here. pic.twitter.com/V8HskCNr41— Rep. Jason Crow (@RepJasonCrow) February 20, 2019
Crow’s letter asks the Department of Homeland Security to provide details on the number and type of disease outbreaks, and how many led to quarantines. He also requests 911 calls, medical staffing and the contacts between ICE and the contractor.
GEO Group and ICE defended their practices after a chicken pox quarantine last October when they told The Denver Post the facility’s environment was safe, humane and secure. “Members of our team strive to treat all of those entrusted to our care with compassion, dignity and respect,” said a spokesman for GEO.
In a statement released late Wednesday, ICE Field Office Director Jeffrey Lynch said those held in the new annex “receive hot meals and medical care including daily medications. The open environment allows for detainees to socialize.”
“ICE takes very seriously its responsibility to care for detainees. Inaccurate news releases detract from our core mission of detaining and removing criminal aliens from our community to protect public safety,” Lynch said in his statement.
In response to Crow's unannounced visit, Lynch noted tours are routinely allowed “in the interest of transparency” as long they are arranged in advance and approved by the field director.
Immigrant rights groups have routinely criticized the Aurora facility. Last June, the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association filed a complaint that alleged, “dangerously inadequate medical and mental health care at the facility which threaten the health and well-being of affected detainees,as well as their ability to lawfully pursue their immigration and asylum claims.”