Ten Democratic members of Congress sent a letter today, February 28, to Immigration and Customs Enforcement demanding answers about a spate of infectious disease outbreaks at detention facilities across the U.S.
The letter, penned by Congressman Jason Crow and signed by nine of his colleagues, specifically asks about ICE's protocol for handling infectious disease outbreaks and providing medical treatment to detainees at the facilities. Crow's district includes the Aurora immigration detention facility, which has seen at least three disease outbreaks since last year.
"One of the fundamental responsibilities of Congress is oversight of federal agencies and yet ICE has left us in the dark. Our communities deserve to know that ICE is taking action ASAP to handle this outbreak and get this under control. A lack of transparency does nothing to calm fears," said Crow in a statement about the letter.
The letter also notes that although the immigration detention facility in Aurora, which private prison company GEO Group runs via a contract with ICE, recently expanded by 432 beds, there is no indication that the facility has increased the number of medical professionals on staff, which includes just one physician.
Starting last fall, detainees in Aurora have been quarantined for confirmed cases of mumps and chicken pox. At one point in February, more than 250 detainees were under quarantine.
On February 20, Crow and Aurora city councilwoman Allison Hiltz attempted to tour the facility but were denied access. Shortly thereafter they held a press conference outside of the facility, during which Crow expressed concerns about the infectious disease outbreaks and the fact that city council and other local officials hadn't been notified about the January expansion.
In response to Crow's visit, ICE said that it is open to hosting politicians and journalists who schedule visits. ICE is planning a media tour for Monday, March 4.
Following the February 20 press conference, Crow sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security similar to the one he sent ICE today. He has yet to receive a response.
The most recent letter was signed by some of Crow's Colorado colleagues, including Diana DeGette, Joe Neguse, Ed Perlmutter and Ilhan Omar.
Read it here: