Aurora May Require Immigration Detention Center To Report Disease

ICE GEO Aurora
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement processing facility in Aurora run by private contractor GEO, on Monday July 1, 2019.

A Colorado city is considering whether to require detention center employees to promptly notify health officials of infectious disease outbreaks.

Aurora City Council members gave preliminary approval Thursday to requiring such notification within 48 hours of discovery.

Sentinel Colorado reports the proposal follows a spate of chickenpox and mumps outbreaks at a privately owned and operated federal immigration detention center in Aurora.

The facility had 15 reported cases of mumps and nine of chickenpox from the beginning of 2019 through mid-March.

Facility officials implemented a vaccination program after the outbreaks.

The reporting proposal would apply to three other facilities if approved by the full City Council.

Earlier in August, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement defended the treatment of detainees at the privately run facility in Aurora but also suggested that some changes are in the works.

The response to criticism came during a media tour ICE held at the facility Aug. 9. Members of the press saw the kitchens, one of the housing pods, the medical facility and the library, but the press were not allowed to speak with detainees and did not have access to the annex or to the women's section of the facility.

The tour came as a response to an Office of Inspector General report criticizing the privately-run facility, including lack of open-space, improper segregation of detainees and lack of open space. 

The facility has come under scrutiny from Democrats in Colorado’s congressional delegation, with many calling for more oversight of the facility. Rep. Jason Crow has begun making weekly visits to the facility.  

The facility also came under fire for its handling of disease outbreaks and use of “restrictive housing” for people who need to be separated. The ICE acting director said some sick detainees are separated at their request, others for disciplinary reasons. As of Aug. 9, there were 12 people in the solitary rooms, and one case of chickenpox.  

The facility can house as many as 1,532 people. There were 1,232 detainees in the facility Friday. A year ago, about 85 percent of the population were convicted criminals waiting to be deported back to their home country, and 15 percent were immigrants waiting for asylum or other legal proceedings. John Fabbricatore, acting field office director, said that percentage has reversed since the crisis at the border.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly gave the location of the women's dorm as the annex at the Aurora GEO facility.