Aurora ICE detention center extends 432-bed contract for a year

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AURORA | The additional 432 beds that have been in use at the Aurora immigration and detention center will be used for at least another year.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency spokeswoman said Tuesday an extended contract between ICE and the facility, privately owned and operated by the GEO Group Inc., was approved this week, allowing for use of the annex space for another 12 months. 

That space has existed at the facility since its opening in 1986, but has only recently been reutilized.

The beds have been in use since January, which is when a 90-day contract was approved. ICE officials said earlier this year the additional beds are in use because of the influx of people arriving at the southern border — many of whom are seeking asylum.

“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 a 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 unclear at this time what additional resources are included in the contract. In March, GEO and ICE officials said they were operating with enough staff, even with the additional detainees at the facility.

Aurora Congressman Jason Crow, who has voiced concerns regarding oversight and conditions in the facility since February, is calling on ICE for more details on contract modification.

Specifically, a spokeswoman for Crow said he wants to know more about the medical resources inside the facility, including how many doctors are present. As of Crow’s visit in March, there was one doctor available to the 1,532 detainees.

“…In the last three months, we’ve seen multiple disease outbreaks and disturbing reports about the medical care and conditions of the facility. If the facility is going to increase its population, it is common sense that their medical staff and resources would increase as well,” Crow said in a statement.

Beyond the one doctor, the facility also has several other medical staff and 24-hour emergency care.

“I am also concerned that the temporary nature of the annex in Aurora is not up to the standards that a permanent facility would be held to,” Crow said. “I continue to ask for, and have failed to receive, the contracts between ICE and GEO, which would answer many of the questions that the public desperately needs answered. A failure to do so is a threat to the safety of the detainees and the public health of our community. It is the responsibility of ICE to provide the public with clear and definitive answers about its plans and provide their contracts immediately.”

The Aurora facility has implemented several quarantines since October due to cases and exposure to mumps and chicken pox. According to the Tri-County Health Department, there have been 15 cases of mumps at the facility and nine cases of chickenpox. 

ICE and GEO officials said the spike in confirmed cases of mumps and chicken pox is consistent with the rise in asylum seekers at the border. Many hail from countries where immunizations are limited. To curb the outbreaks, Tri-County held vaccination clinics at the detention center last month. Tri-County epidemiologist Bernadette Albanese told the Sentinel that has helped the outbreak situation.

In March, more than 350 detainees were in quarantine at the facility — detention pods that were in quarantine were set to end by the beginning of April. ICE spokeswoman Alethea Smock said there are 1,322 detainees currently at the detention center as of Tuesday. 57 are in quarantine.

The continued use of the annex space is again raising concerns from Aurora city council member Allison Hiltz. She’s expressed concerns over public safety staff who may need to access the facility during emergencies not having enough information about the conditions of the detention center.

“ICE’s assertion, and by extension, their private, for-profit contractor GEO Group, that they prioritize the health, safety, and welfare of those in their custody is welcomed,” she said. “My hope is that they put actions to their words by truly coordinating with the public agencies that are responsible for exactly this: the health, safety, and welfare of our community. Once again, I urge them to begin the process of working collaboratively with their local public safety leaders.”