AURORA, Colo. — You wouldn’t know it from the outside but in just the last two-and-a-half months, the number of detainees inside the Aurora Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Detention Center has jumped by more than 60 percent.
During a media tour of the facility on Monday, the Denver acting field director said the recent spike stems from a wave of asylum seekers at the border.
Cameras were not allowed inside, but several top officials with the Geo Group and ICE were on hand to answer questions.
The media tour comes after weeks of public backlash from Colorado congressional lawmakers who cited public health and transparency concerns. Most notably, Congressman Jason Crow tried to make an unannounced visit to the center two weeks ago but was turned away.
Crow criticized a recent expansion.
According to ICE officials on Monday, the private company that runs the center is the Geo Group. In January, they were awarded a contract by the federal government to add 432 beds. GEO did so by using an empty building on campus.
Crow says local government was never notified about the addition and argues emergency officials must know about a sudden increase in the population, especially for emergency cases.
Meanwhile, ICE is catching heat for reports of viral outbreaks
According to ICE officials, there have been five confirmed cases of chicken pox since last fall, two confirmed cases of mumps in February and four suspected cases. Currently, 357 detainees are in quarantine.
During the tour, the media got glimpse of the medical facilities on-site as well as the areas currently in quarantine.
According to ICE, in terms of the Mumps cases, they are linked to immigration detainees recently flown in to CO from a Mexico border crossing.
Important to note, according to ICE if a detainee is quarantined, but that individual has a release date, he or she will be released into the public even if that individual is not done with the 25 day quarantine period. Detainees are given medication and information about the viruses as they are released.
Democratic congressman Jason Crow has publicly criticized the agency for being slow to release information and on Monday night argued this remains a public health concern.
Erika Gonzalez spoke with the Tri-County Health Department Monday who says that by public health standards, there is indeed a chicken pox and mumps outbreak at the Aurora ICE Detention Center.