Aurora city officials say GEO Group violated building code when it didn't apply for a permit to alter a door on the south side of its immigration detention annex. GEO Group is working with the city to obtain the proper permitting retroactively.
The door alteration happened sometime between June 2017 and the opening of the 432-bed annex facility in January, since Google Street View images from two years ago show a different door in place of the metal mesh one there now. GEO, a private prison company that contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement to house immigrant detainees, expanded its operations into the annex this winter, bringing its total facility capacity to 1,532.
Aurora's Building Division was recently tipped off to the new steel mesh door, says city spokeswoman Julie Patterson. After receiving the tip, Building Division staff visited the facility and determined that the door alteration required a permit.
Patterson says Building Division staff are now in contact with the facility's warden, Johnny Choate, who is in the process of obtaining the proper permit. Once the facility receives its permit, city officials will visit to confirm compliance. Additionally, the facility must submit a site-plan amendment to the Aurora Planning and Development Services Department. Because it responded immediately after being contacted, the facility won't receive a formal notice of violation, Patterson says. Pablo Paez, executive vice president for corporate relations at GEO Group, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
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When news broke in the beginning of February that the GEO facility had expanded its operations into the annex, some elected officials expressed frustration that they had not been notified beforehand.
"ICE's decision to allow the expansion of its facility without so much as a hint of notice to local elected officials or the public is incomprehensible," Aurora City Councilwoman Allison Hiltz told Westword at the time. "I can think of only two reasons for keeping this a secret: fear of public backlash, or incompetence on the part of its management team. And neither inspires confidence in their ability to responsibly oversee human lives."
Congressman Jason Crow, whose district includes Aurora, has also been pushing for more oversight of the facility and ones like it. Last month, Crow introduced a bill that would allow a member of Congress to inspect an immigration detention facility within 48 hours of an inspection request.
GEO and ICE have also been in the news recently after government reports found the Aurora facility had violated multiple ICE detention standards.