Complaint Filed Against ICE as COVID Outbreak in Colorado Facility Raises Concerns

February 14, 2022

WASHINGTON—Immigration advocacy groups filed a complaint on Friday with the Department of Homeland Security's oversight bodies urging an investigation into the lack of COVID-19 protections and a COVID-19 outbreak—including threats of retaliation against detained people—at the Denver Contract Detention Facility in Aurora, Colorado.

The American Immigration Council, Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network, Immigrant Justice Idaho, and Mariposa Legal filed the complaint with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General, Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, and Office of the Immigration Detention Ombudsman. The complaint filed on behalf of people in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody at the Aurora facility describes ICE and GEO Group’s failure to protect the health of medically vulnerable people; provide cleaning supplies; ensure adherence with proper masking procedure; and provide sufficient COVID-19 testing, vaccine administration, and access to crucial services during quarantining and medical isolation.

One individual highlighted in the complaint, Camilo* states that he never received a COVID-19 test despite repeated requests through multiple channels, even after 13 people in his dorm tested positive and he was experiencing symptoms including a headache, sore throat, cough, difficulty breathing, and feeling feverish and dizzy for at least five days.

The complaint also describes other violations, including the medical neglect of people sick with COVID-19 and threats of retaliation against people in detention if they spoke to their attorneys about the current COVID-19 outbreak at the detention center. It also alleges a failure to accommodate people with physical and mental health conditions as required by federal disability law.

An individual identified in the complaint as Musa* states, “There was a lack of medical attention in quarantine. People were banging on the doors because they were refusing people medical attention. I had to see the psychiatrist because this caused me mental duress and messed with me psychologically. I was having a lot of nightmares.” Another detained individual identified as Afuom* states, “I fear retribution if I speak out too much regarding the unsafe conditions. If you complain about the conditions or say that you will speak to your lawyer, the staff react negatively.”

The complaint—which contains declarations of people detained at or recently released from the Aurora facility describing personal experiences that reflect violations of ICE guidance during the outbreak—also calls for the release of those detained as the most effective method to protect people in ICE custody, and the surrounding communities, from COVID-19.

Another individual, Leticia* states, “Although people are often sick, I only see people getting tested for COVID-19 when they are getting ready to fly to be deported.” She states that she was left in the general population without being tested for two days after her roommate tested positive for COVID-19, despite feeling very sick and requesting a test. She states that her other roommates were never tested, despite this exposure.

“ICE has consistently shown its inability to detain people while protecting their health and safety. The fight for adequate access to medical care and COVID-19 protection in immigration detention is not new—we have documented and filed numerous complaints highlighting the deleterious impacts of detention on the wellbeing of those in ICE custody during the pandemic,” said Katy Murdza, advocacy manager for the American Immigration Council. “The accounts of those detained in Aurora demonstrate a systematic failure by ICE to take meaningful measures to protect the thousands of individuals currently in its custody and comply with the most basic standards to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the facility and the surrounding communities. People should be released from detention so that they can pursue their claims to immigration relief without putting their physical and mental health at risk.”

“Access to medical care is a human right. ICE cannot continue to detain people while failing to provide for their health and safety. We are two years into the pandemic and ICE has shown that it cannot protect those in its care. We stand with our clients and those detained at Aurora and demand their release,” said Colleen Cowgill, pro bono coordinating staff attorney, Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network.

“It should go without saying that people who are detained, without freedom to move or the agency to protect themselves, face the greatest risk of infection and re-infection. Failing to ensure adherence to best health practices for our clients shows, yet again, how the system dehumanizes those our government chooses to lock up. Release is the only appropriate remedy," said Maria Andrade, executive director, Immigrant Justice Idaho.

A copy of the complaint is here.



For more information, contact:

Maria Frausto, American Immigration Council, [email protected], 202-507-7526.






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