Two immigrants have died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody at the Denver Contract Detention Facility in Aurora, Colorado in the last six years. This is in addition to many more detainees who report dangerously inadequate treatment of medical and mental conditions, including post-war psychological trauma, hemophilia, tuberculosis, and damaged eyesight from past beatings.
In response, the American Immigration Council (Council) and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) are urging an investigation into the government’s longstanding and systemic failure to provide adequate medical and mental health care to immigrants detained at the Aurora facility. They have filed a complaint with the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL), ICE, and ICE’s Health Services Corps.
The complaint, filed on behalf of individuals who are and were detained at the Aurora facility, highlights the ways in which weak, insufficient medical practices threaten the health and well-being of detainees and directly impact their ability to pursue their immigration and asylum claims.
The issues addressed in the complaint are of immediate concern given the Trump administration’s dramatic expansion of immigration enforcement, increasing the number of individuals subject to immigration detention.
“The stakes could not be higher for the detainees at Aurora and elsewhere. Detainees’ lives are literally in the hands of the detention center staff and health providers at these detention facilities. ICE and GEO Group, Inc.—the private prison company that owns and operates the Aurora facility—have repeatedly been put on notice of the grave health concerns raised by individuals detained in Aurora. Yet reports of woefully inadequate care continue to mount. These reports demonstrate that the government is willfully and systematically breaking the law by failing to provide appropriate medical and mental health care to detained immigrants, and in so doing, is severely hindering their access to a meaningful day in court,” said Katie Shepherd, National Advocacy Counsel with the Immigration Justice Campaign, a joint initiative between the Council and AILA.
The complaint illustrates the government’s failure to comply with official policies on mandated care; grossly substandard medical and mental health care; limited transparency and public accountability regarding many other aspects of detainee care; and facility staff and ICE’s deliberate indifference to a detainee’s serious medical needs.
The complaint also calls for systemwide improvements to health care in ICE detention facilities across the nation.