AURORA, Colo. (CBS4) – A Colorado congressman plans to spend a lot more time at an immigration detention center in Aurora. Rep. Jason Crow says he’ll visit the privately run facility every week to make sure detainees are being treated humanely.
He claims ICE isn’t providing adequate oversight at the facility, pointing to two dozen cases of mumps and chickenpox there since the beginning of the year. While Tri-County Health Department officials say workers have undergone voluntary training and the outbreaks are contained, Crow wants more accountability, even if it means going there himself every week.
“Here we have in our community a facility that houses over 1,000 detainees that have now over a half dozen disease outbreaks,” he said.
After touring the facility in February, Crow fired off a letter to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement questioning what its protocol was for treating disease outbreaks and what it was doing to ensure detainees who were quarantined were treated humanely.
This week he got a response.
“One of the shocking responses was they’re not taking any responsibility for the health conditions and oversight of these facilities. They’re just saying they have no operational control and these are just contracted facilities, which is really stunning to me,” Crow said of the response.
ICE pushed back saying while it does “not have medical authority” in private facilities, it assigns “field medical coordinators… to ensure that appropriate medical services are provided… and takes very seriously the health, safety and welfare of those in our custody.”
But Crow points to an unannounced visit by the Inspector General last year that found “serious issues” including segregation and no in person visitation. He’ll now be performing his own inspections.
“The vast majority of people in this facility are actually asylum seekers … and they’re being locked-up and kept like prisoners and they’re being subjected to these disease outbreaks. And people in our community deserve to know what’s being done using their taxpayer dollars and what’s being done in their name. So this about good government, it’s about transparency, it’s about accountability, but it’s also about decency and human dignity.”
ICE says it doesn’t know what percentage of the people housed in the facility are from the border but it says, of the people it’s arrested and detained there, 85% have been charged or convicted of a crime. It also says it supports tours of its facilities as long as they are arranged in advance to ensure the “safety, security and privacy of detainees.”
Crow says he or a staff member will be making the weekly visits “as long as necessary.”