Second ICE Employee at Aurora Facility Tests Positive for COVID-19

Kenzie Bruce
A second ICE employee at the Aurora ICE facility has tested positive for COVID-19.
A second Immigration and Customs Enforcement employee at the Aurora detention facility has tested positive for COVID-19, according to two sources at ICE.

The employee's last day of work was March 13; the employee started developing symptoms on March 15, say the sources, who requested anonymity. Local ICE officials did not return a request for comment.

The positive test result came back today, March 27, two days after another Aurora ICE employee, who apparently had not been in contact with detainees, received a positive test result. Both employees are with ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations.

The Aurora immigration court, which was closed on March 26 as "a precautionary measure," according to the Department of Justice, remains shuttered today.

The Denver immigration court's non-detained docket has been on pause since mid-March; a Denver immigration judge is currently at home in self-quarantine after exhibiting symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

And on March 12, ten detainees at the Aurora facility were exposed to an immigration attorney who may have had COVID-19. One of those detainees bonded out, while the nine others were quarantined together, separate from other detainees. They were supposed to be released from quarantine on March 26, according to a report from Congressman Jason Crow's office.

While employees at the Aurora facility, which had 687 detainees as of March 20, are testing positive, so far no detainees have tested positive for COVID-19, according to ICE officials. Across the country, ICE reports that just two detainees, both of whom are located in New Jersey, have so far tested positive.

But local immigration lawyers are growing increasingly concerned that ICE is not giving them the full picture about what's happening inside the facility in relation to COVID-19.

"We’ve never experienced stonewalling in the way that they are now. I can’t help but believe it’s all coming from higher-ups, and it’s completely out of their hands," Laura Lunn, an attorney who manages the Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network's detention program, tells Westword.

Lunn and her staff have heard from clients in one of the Aurora facility's pods, which houses dozens of detainees, that it's under quarantine and that a handful of people within that pod are exhibiting COVID-19-like symptoms.

ICE has not answered questions regarding that pod; ICE has also declined to answer questions about testing, though the Tri-County Health Department confirms that tests are available for both detainees and staff at the facility.

ICE also declined to answer questions about whether the facility is paroling detainees at a higher rate than usual. On March 26, about a dozen women who'd been living in the same pod were released from the facility, according to Sarah Jackson, executive director of Casa de Paz, an organization that picks up detainees released from the facility. With COVID-19 spreading across the country, infectious-disease specialists are recommending that immigrant detention facilities release detainees who are older or immuno-compromised.