Congressman Jason Crow launches bill banning ICE detainee transfers amid soaring COVID-19 cases

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AURORA | Aurora Congressman Jason Crow and other Democrats introduced a bill Friday that would ban the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement Agency from transferring immigrants between detention centers and require social distancing inside them. 

Crow joined Texas Reps. Sylvia Garcia and Veronica Escobar to introduce the End Transfers of Detained Immigrants Act. If signed into law, the bill would target what lawmakers and activists say are unsafe practices inside detention centers during a surging pandemic, including the privately-run ICE outpost in north Aurora. 

At Aurora’s detention center run by GEO Group Inc., 130 detainees were confirmed to have COVID-19 since February. That’s up from 117 cumulative cases as of Oct. 25, according to ICE. As of Nov. 16, GEO Group also counted 64 COVID-19 cases among employees of the site.

Crow’s legislation would also require ICE to release detainees if social distancing isn’t possible. 

In Aurora, ICE and GEO officials say they have implemented safety measures, reduced the number of detained inmates and released some detainees especially at-risk of succumbing to COVID-19. In a statement, spokesperson Brian Miller said virus transmission was a problem in all Colorado detention centers, not just GEO’s. 

But the agency hasn’t stopped transferring people into the facility. Crow has said for months that ICE can’t effectively protect detainees from COVID-19 if new people are entering the facility. 

“In our district, we’ve seen firsthand how unnecessary detainee transfers between facilities can increase the risk of COVID-19 exposure and other communicable disease,” Crow said in a statement. “If there are measures we can take to prevent the spread of the virus and protect our health, we should take them.”

This story was updated with a comment from GEO Group Inc. and the number of virus cases among detention center employees.