On Friday, September 13, advocates will gather outside the immigrant detention center in Aurora for "Stop GEO," a "day of action" that will involve testimony from individuals impacted by the facility and workshops on how to engage lawmakers in discussions about it.
The Colorado People's Alliance and the American Friends Service Committee are organizing the "Stop GEO" event to demand "an end to the human rights abuses happening in GEO and an end to the funding that allows these abuses to continue," according to a statement. The Stop GEO event is part of a larger "week of action" that is being organized by immigrant-rights advocacy groups in metro Denver to "close the camps, de-fund hate, [and] invest in love," according to organizers.
"We're trying to lift up the stories of directly impacted people of medical neglect, abuse and, just in general, what's happening in the detention center," says Ana Rodriguez, a community organizer with the Colorado People's Alliance.
The detention facility, which is run by the private prison company GEO Group through a contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has been plagued by allegations of medical neglect and has struggled with infectious-disease outbreaks this year.
The day will start around 8 a.m. with conversations with families visiting detainees. A booth will provide them with materials for writing to the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General, which investigates complaints about detention centers. There will also be a booth where people can call their congressional representatives to voice their thoughts about the facility. And from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., statements from detainees or their family members will be read aloud.
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"If we really don't want these abuses to continue in GEO, we need to ensure that Congress doesn't keep giving more money for these contracts so they can keep expanding and bringing people into the facility," says Rodriguez.
Later in the afternoon, there will be a "Know Your Rights" workshop for undocumented immigrants and their family members and a workshop that will guide people in preparing testimony for city council hearings. Activists are encouraging members of the public to testify at Aurora City Council meetings in the coming weeks, since it will vote on an ordinance that would require the detention facility to notify the Aurora Fire Rescue when there are infectious-disease outbreaks; currently, only the Tri-County Health Department is notified.
Along with activists, the facility is facing pressure from local congressmen Jason Crow and Joe Neguse, who are pushing for more oversight. Crow's office is inspecting the facility on a weekly basis, and the lawmaker introduced a bill in May that would require detention facilities to open their doors to members of Congress within 48 hours of an inspection request. Neguse has proposed an oversight hearing that would look into GEO Group and its operation of immigrant detention facilities.
Find more information about the Stop GEO event on its Facebook page.