After the majority of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees at the Aurora detention facility were finally tested for COVID-19, four more positive cases were identified. That makes sixteen detainees testing positive at the center run by private prison company GEO Group through a contract with ICE.
"The health and welfare of individuals in ICE custody continues to be a top priority for ICE,” John Fabbricatore, the Denver field office director for ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations, says in a statement. “ICE has taken numerous steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, but offering this voluntary testing shows how the agency is using all resources available to ensure the safety of our detained population.”
This round of testing, which involved hundreds of detainees, took place from June 9 through 18, according to ICE. Of the 481 individuals in ICE custody at the facility during this period, 427 tested negative for COVID-19, while 49 declined to be tested. One test was inconclusive and is being redone. ICE officials say that they will continue to offer tests to those who initially declined, and also test new arrivals at the facility — who are kept separate from the general population for fourteen days, per guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Two ICE staffers working at the facility tested positive for COVID-19 months ago. According to GEO Group, ten of its employees at the Aurora center have also tested positive for COVID-19.
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Several detention facilities, where proper social distancing is often impossible, have made the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's list of COVID-19 outbreaks in the state. The Aurora ICE detention center is one of them.
The facility, which has seen other infectious-disease outbreaks and has been criticized by local activists, lawyers and politicians for alleged medical neglect, is currently well under its 1,532 capacity. In a June 17 report from the office of Congressman Jason Crow, ICE reported that it was housing 403 detainees at the facility; another sixty or so U.S. marshal inmates are also housed there.
Over the course of the pandemic, numerous detainees have filed legal petitions to be released from the Aurora facility on the grounds that they are medically vulnerable and could become seriously ill, and that their continued detention is unconstitutional. While some of these lawsuits have resulted in detainees being released, most have been denied by federal judges.
Outside of the facility, activists associated with Abolish ICE Denver have set up an encampment, where they've been staying for a month now. The residents of Camp Close the Camps say that they'll stay at the site until ICE releases all detainees from the facility.