In June, Abolish ICE Denver asked Jeremy Flood, a Denver-based video producer for the Justice Democrats, to film a protest encampment that the group had set up outside of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center in Aurora.
Not long after Flood got to the encampment, he moved in. "I decided that I’ll just camp out here as well and start making this documentary," says Flood, who had filmed past protests outside of the ICE facility.
On Friday, December 18, Flood's 46-minute documentary made in partnership with various organizations, including the ACLU of Colorado, will premiere virtually. In the film, Flood pulls back the curtains on immigrant detention in Colorado, a subject that's often shrouded in secrecy.
For decades, northwest Aurora has been home to a large immigrant detention facility formally known as the Aurora Contract Detention Facility. Run by private prison company GEO Group through a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the detention center holds a wide range of immigrant detainees, including asylum seekers, undocumented immigrants with and without criminal convictions, and documented immigrants who are potentially subject to deportation because of criminal convictions.
The movie, titled "The Facility," highlights the pain experienced by families who lose a loved one to immigrant detention, which often leads to deportation. "I was just really overwhelmed by the stories I was hearing," says Flood, who lived in the encampment with families whose husbands, fathers and sons were detained across the street at the detention facility.
Flood hopes that the film will help push policymakers toward abolishing for-profit immigrant detention, something that activists in Colorado have been demanding for years. "I see the reflection of my own history in a lot of what’s going on in our immigration system and the way that it’s sort of set up not to serve the public interest or public safety, but to make an extraordinary profit," says Flood, who is Black.
Flood's favorite character in the film is Raul Medina Perez, a 29-year-old who has called the United States home since he came here at the age of five. ICE detained Medina Perez in 2019, and the film shows his eventual release after eleven months in ICE detention and the reunification with his family outside the detention center.
"I feel like I really connected with Raul because we’re about the same age," says Flood. "He was so relatable. It just made it all the more horrific to me to hear the things that he had gone through in there, just because I could put myself in his shoes."
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Aurora Contract Detention Facility had been the site of numerous outbreaks of infectious diseases, including chicken pox and mumps; it had also been the focus of allegations of severe medical neglect, particularly in the case of Kamyar Samimi.
Samimi, an Iranian national, had been a longtime legal, permanent resident of the U.S. when ICE detained him in late 2017 for a 2005 conviction for possession of cocaine. The 64-year-old had a daily methadone prescription when he entered the facility, but staff cut him off, leading to severe withdrawal symptoms. After just two weeks, Samimi was evacuated to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead from cardiac arrest.
ICE's own internal investigation into the in-custody death was scathing, noting that staff at the facility made mistake after mistake in the lead-up to Samimi's death. "The Facility" takes viewers on the tragic journey of Samimi's last days through the lens of his daughter, Neda Samimi-Gomez, who is now suing the GEO Group over her father's death.
And that's just one of the stories captured in "The Facility," which is highly critical of both the center and the company that runs it.
"There’s no reason for GEO Group to exist," Flood concludes. "It’s sort of an obscenity upon my conscience that I felt the need to rectify."
"The Facility" will debut online at 7 p.m. Friday, December 18; following the free, virtual premiere, the ACLU of Colorado will host a panel discussion featuring Flood and five people who appear in the film. Find more information here.
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