Federal judge rules GEO Group — which runs an ICE detention center in Aurora — can’t be shielded from class-action lawsuit

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 federal court ruling has paved the way for a class-action lawsuit to proceed against a private company that owns and operates detention facilities across the U.S. — including one in Aurora.

The GEO Group argued in the case that it was protected under a federal law that protects government contractors from facing lawsuits while carrying out federal directives. The U.S. District Court of Colorado determined that GEO could not benefit from that law. 

Court documents also showed that the judge ruled that GEO had not performed what was directed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and went beyond its contract in requiring detainees to perform certain tasks like cleaning the commons area.

“The record shows that GEO has not simply performed as ICE directed,” wrote Senior U.S. District Judge John L. Kane. “GEO went beyond its contract with ICE in requiring detainees to clean up all common areas and after other detainees under the threat of segregation.”

The court also denied the motion to decertify a 40,000-person lawsuit against GEO alleging forced labor and unjust enrichment.

The court ruling is the latest of several ongoing issues with the Aurora facility.

Federal immigration officials say a Nicaraguan man died Friday while in ICE custody at the Aurora Facility. Melvin Ariel Calero Mendoza had been at the detention center since May and was awaiting proceedings to remove him from the country. The 39-year-old was hospitalized at the University of Colorado Hospital before he died. His cause of death is under investigation. It is the third death at the facility in four decades.