Activism

Rally Outside GEO Facility Will Protest Immigrant Deaths in Detention, Desert

Rally Outside GEO Facility Will Protest Immigrant Deaths in Detention, Desert
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The GEO immigration detention facility in Aurora has gotten lots of attention lately, with reports of detainee escapes and violations of Immigration and Customs Enforcement standards. And it will be back in the spotlight on Friday, June 21, when immigration-rights advocates gather outside at 6 p.m. to denounce the deaths of immigrants in detention facilities and in the deserts of America's border states.

"The continuing deaths in detention and in the desert are horrific and simply not acceptable," says Dana Miller, an organizer of Desert and Detention: End the Deaths.

Miller is a member of Indivisible Denver, a group pushing back against policies of the Trump administration, and she's teaming up with immigration-rights and sanctuary advocate Jeannette Vizguerra to organize the event. Vizguerra, who was on TIME magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in 2017, is still living in sanctuary at the First Unitarian Society in Capitol Hill and will not be at the rally. But family members of those detained by ICE will be speaking there, and participants are encouraged to bring shoes to symbolize those who died trying to reach safety.

June 21 is the longest day of the year and one of the deadliest in the Arizona desert, activists say. Since 2001, over 3,000 undocumented immigrants have died in Arizona's Pima County, according to that county's Office of the Medical Examiner.

The event is being organized in solidarity with No More Deaths, an Arizona-based humanitarian organization working to stop deaths in the desert. Scott Warren, a volunteer with that group, was brought up on felony charges for providing aid to migrants; his trial ended with a hung jury earlier this month.

Although Colorado doesn't have deserts where immigrants die, detainee deaths in detention facilities is a real concern here. In December 2017, 64-year-old Iranian national Kamyar Samimi died while in ICE custody in Aurora. A May 2018 ICE review of his demise, finally made public last month, offered a scathing critique of how medical staff at the Aurora facility, which is run by private prison company GEO, handled Samimi's situation.

Congressman Jason Crow, whose district includes Aurora, introduced a bill last month to require immigration detention facilities to comply with inspection requests from members of Congress within 48 hours.

On June 3, the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security published an analysis of four detention centers that house detainees, including the one in Aurora, noting numerous violations.

And on June 16, three detainees escaped from the facility. There's been no update on the status of that case.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.