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

Calls are mounting for ICE to release certain detainees from the Aurora detention facility.
Calls are mounting for ICE to release certain detainees from the Aurora detention facility. Kenzie Bruce
An Immigration and Customs Enforcement employee who was working at the immigrant detention facility in Aurora as recently as last week has tested positive for COVID-19, two sources inside ICE have confirmed. The results of the test came back today, March 25.

The Aurora detention center is run by private prison company GEO Group through a contract with ICE. Last week, ten detainees at the facility were under quarantine after having been exposed to an immigration attorney who may have had COVID-19. Across the United States, there has been one confirmed case of COVID-19 among ICE detainees, and one confirmed case among ICE employees working at detention facilities — not including this Aurora case.

Before the positive result in Aurora, immigration attorneys had already been asking ICE to parole or bond out detainees who are vulnerable to contracting serious cases of COVID-19, such as older individuals and those with suppressed immune systems. Meanwhile, unions representing immigration attorneys, ICE prosecutors and immigration judges have come together to call for the temporary closure of all immigration courts nationwide, including the one in Aurora.

So far, the Department of Justice has shut down the dockets at non-detained courts, including one in downtown Denver, but not at detained courts, like the one at the Aurora ICE facility. An immigration judge who had been working at the Denver immigration court is currently quarantined at home with a suspected case of COVID-19.

This week, immigration attorneys representing detained clients at the Aurora facility are required to wear eye protection, N-95 masks and gloves when meeting with clients. After an attorney arrives in the detained court, the judge decides whether the lawyer will have to continue wearing personal protective equipment, according to Alex Gavern, a Denver immigration attorney.

"The personal protective equipment should be used for medical personnel and first responders who are having to deal with this constantly," Gavern notes. "This seems to be taking resources away from those people."

Alethea Smock, a local ICE spokesperson, has not responded to Westword's questions regarding the detainees under quarantine at the Aurora facility. According to ICE, the employee who tested positive has not had contact with detainees.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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.