Congressman Crow, fellow House Dems, tour Aurora GEO facility and cite medical deficiencies

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AURORA | The Aurora immigration detention center is lacking top medical staff, according to a handful of Colorado congressional Democrats who toured the facility on Monday.

Crow, who announced earlier this month he or his staff would be touring the center weekly for oversight purposes, was joined by Colorado Democratic congress members Diana DeGette, Joe Neguse and Ed Perlmutter. 

“Many of the senior positions in the health unit, including the top two positions, are currently vacant, as well as psychologists,” Crow said in a news conference following the tour. “And these vacancies, we believe, are causing some of these delays in adequate medical attention.”

Crow said there was one psychologist vacancy and the health services administrator for the facility and the deputy administrator positions are vacant. 

A spokesperson for GEO Group, which owns and operates the facility, said in an email to the Sentinel all medical needs are being met at the facility.

“The open administrative positions are not clinical, and GEO has assigned regional support to cover the administrative vacancies until they are filled,” the spokesman said.

In April, immigration officials said the facility would be ramping up staff at the detention center because it would keep its temporary annex open for another year. There is room for a total of 1,532 detainees in the facility now. Perlmutter told reporters there were more than 1,200 detainees there during the tour. 

Without the annexation, GEO Group could hold a maximum of 432 detainees.

“In addition to the beds, the contract modification also provides all personnel, management, equipment, facilities, supplies and transportation in accordance with the ICE Performance Based National Detention Standards 2011,” according to an April news release from ICE. “This contract modification ensures a continuity of mission-critical services required to fulfill ICE’s mission for supervising, detaining and removing illegal aliens. By contracting with private providers to meet our short-notice changing needs, ICE avoids long-term obligations.”

It’s still unclear whether those staffing changes have been met.

Neguse, Perlmutter and DeGette echoed Crow’s call for more transparency in the detention facility.

“Oversight matters,” said DeGette, who also recalled talking to women detainees who had asked for aspirin to treat menstrual cramps but didn’t receive any medication until at least a week later.

The visit was part of Crow’s overarching effort to bring more oversight to the detention center. 

“The truth is we don’t expect this administration to act and hold ICE accountable,” Crow said. “This is a boots on the ground effort to fill in those gaps of oversight, and I’m sure we’re doing everything we can to increase oversight and improve conditions at these facilities.”

A spokeswoman for Crow said the three Democratic representatives touring the facility with him had reached out about visiting the facility. 

“We didn’t hear from any Republicans, but would love to have them come for future visits,” she said.

It was rumored Vice President Mike Pence would stop at the north Aurora detention center on Monday while on a fundraising trip to Colorado. That does not appear to have panned out.

“It was my understanding that the Vice President was going to visit the facility and decided instead to do a fundraiser in Aspen,” Crow said.