Vigil at Aurora ICE detention center calls for less funding, more oversight of facilities

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AURORA, Colo. — People attending a vigil outside an ICE detention facility in Aurora Monday evening asked for lawmakers to reduce funding for private detention centers.

At one point, the group said ICE should be abolished and detention centers like the one in Aurora should get less funding and more scrutiny.

Not long before the evening’s vigil began, workers at the GEO Group facility barricaded the driveway.

The vigil was peaceful. It was sponsored by a different group from one last month when protesters removed and vandalized an American flag.

As the crowd of about 60  sang, GEO workers watched from behind the building’s front doors.

The shooting in El Paso this weekend was discussed. According to the Associated Press, the suspect in the shooting appears to have posted a screed online saying the massacre was in response to what he believed was an invasion of Hispanics coming across the southern border.

“It is definitely top-of-mind because that’s a very scary thing that happened and it’s something that we all have to be conscious of — that there are radical people out there that want to do stuff like that,” Sophia Markuson De Prince said.

She and her siblings were among those attending the vigil supporting detained immigrants.

Her brother Max Markuson De Prince said, “They’re being treated [unreasonably]. And we’re coming here to stand in solidarity with them.”

This vigil focused on calling attention to funding and what attendees call a lack of oversight for facilities like the one in Aurora.

“It is really important that people understand that their taxpayer dollars are currently going to line the pockets of corporations like GEO that are tearing families apart,” said American Friends Service Committee program director Gabriela Flora.

Organizers are hoping lawmakers hear their pleas.

After Monday night’s vigil, the GEO Group sent out the following statement from Pablo Paez, the company’s executive vice president of corporate relations:

“Like all Americans, we are concerned about the unprecedented humanitarian crisis at our Southern border; we acknowledge the challenge, but we are appalled by the historically and factually inaccurate portrayal of our facilities driven by politically motivated attacks. The gross misinformation being spread at this demonstration is the same false rhetoric that has led to the endangerment of our employees, of government employees, and the public. We have been a trusted service provider to the federal government for over three decades, under both Democratic and Republican Administrations.
“Our facilities have never been overcrowded, nor have they ever housed unaccompanied minors. Our facilities are highly rated by independent accreditation entities and provide humane residential care, including 24/7 medical services, modern recreation amenities, and access to legal counsel.
“For over 30 years, the Aurora Processing Center has provided the best and most humane care possible for our residents as they await their court hearings. We can’t solve the immigration crisis from our facility, but we’re committed to protecting those entering the facility and ensuring they are provided high-quality, culturally responsive services in safe, secure, and humane environments, and are treated with compassion, dignity and respect.”

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