Today, May 20, Congressman Jason Crow introduced legislation that would allow a member of Congress to inspect an immigration detention facility within 48 hours of notifying the facility.
"People are dying, and we can't wait a moment longer," Crow said in a statement.
The language in the Public Oversight of Detention Centers Act mimics a letter that Crow sent to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security urging it to include language in a budget bill that would codify a similar 48-hour rule for 2020. Crow's new bill would make the 48-hour rule permanent.
The freshman Democrat, whose district includes the Aurora immigration detention facility, attempted to inspect the center in February after hearing reports of infectious disease quarantines and lackluster health care. But when he arrived, he was turned away and told he needed to make an appointment. Crow's office says that Immigration and Customs Enforcement then denied multiple tour requests, until he finally toured the facility 24 days after his initial attempt.
“On the morning of February 20, Representative Crow was denied a tour of the Aurora (Colorado) Contract Detention Facility because he arrived at the facility with a media entourage that he invited, and he expected that they would be allowed to tour the facility with him," said ICE Denver Field Office Director John Fabbricatore in a statement to Westword. "We would have immediately accommodated the Congressman’s tour request had he arrived without media reps in tow, as we did when we hosted a tour of the facility for him on April 15, 2019. My ICE Denver staff have been in daily communication with Representative Crow’s local staff for months; his statements saying that we would not facilitate him are disingenuous. Instead, he continues to grandstand in front of the media outlets that he invited.”
The bill has received support from representatives Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Sylvia Garcia of Texas, and Hank Johnson of Georgia, all of whom are Democrats. Crow hopes to get Republicans to sign on to the bill, as he believes that congressional oversight of these facilities should not be a partisan issue.
Numerous local and national immigrant-rights organizations have expressed their support.
"Congressional oversight with a minimal notification of 48 hours will ensure long-overdue accountability of detention centers here in Aurora and across the country,” said Nicole Melaku, executive director of the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, in a statement.
An ICE spokesperson says that there are no longer any infectious-disease quarantines at the Aurora facility. The federal agency is currently involved in litigation over alleged medical neglect at the facility and an Information Act request regarding the death of a detainee in Aurora in December 2017.