Almost a hundred people detained at the privately-owned Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility in Aurora have tested positive for COVID-19.
As of last week, the outbreak included 96 detainees and one employee at the facility owned by the Geo Group, according to a report by Congressman Jason Crow's office. People in detention centers like the one in Aurora have faced an extremely high risk of infection during the pandemic.
"Conditions at Geo and the manner we treat individuals detained there not only reflect our community values but impact our public health," Crow said in a statement. "Infectious disease outbreaks affect our community as a whole and we will continue to demand transparency and accountability."
The facility has seen a rise in new arrivals and transfers from border facilities, according to an ICE spokesperson. After the arrival of 166 new immigrants this month, Crow called for a halt to those transfers, warning of increased virus transmission.
The department said it tests immigrants during the intake process and houses the new arrivals separately for two weeks.
The detention center has a capacity of 1,532 people, but ICE says it has lowered the facility's population. According to Crow's report, 459 people are currently housed there.
"On-site medical professionals are credited with reducing the risk of further spreading the disease by immediately testing, identifying and isolating the exposed detainees to mitigate the spread of infection, in accordance with CDC guidelines," said Alethea Smock, a spokesperson for ICE. "ICE and the on-site medical professionals continue to work with the local health department to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to the community and vaccinate detainees who request a vaccination."
The Geo group declined to comment.
A federal bill to shrink the population of detention centers was introduced by U.S. Representatives Pramila Jayapal and Adam Smith of Washington and U.S. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey in March. Crow has also announced his support for the proposed Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, which would end the use of private detention facilities like the Geo detention center altogether.
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