Aurora, CO – An encampment outside the GEO Group’s ICE detention facility in Colorado sprung up on Saturday evening, May 23, with the demand: free them all. The camp-out is in direct response to an announcement by the Tri-County Health Department on May 21 stating that two detainees tested positive for COVID-19.
As of May 16, ICE has tested 2,394 detainees nationwide, which is less than 10% of the people they have in their custody. Over half of those tests came back positive. The largest outbreak in a detention facility thus far is at Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, CA, where 155 detainees tested positive. That facility is also where the first reported detainee died from the disease.
Unicorn Riot spoke with Kesha Davalos-Grijalva on Sunday morning outside the Colorado detention facility. Her husband has been detained since January and has already lived through outbreaks of the flu and mumps at the center, when 141 detainees were quarantined for at least a week in late February.
In the last year and three months, there have been at least six outbreaks at the facility, including the current COVID-19 one. Due to pervasive sickness, medical neglect, two deaths—Evalin-Ali Mandza and Kaymar Samimi—and other human rights abuses, the detention center has been sued at least seven times since 2016.
The most recent suit was filed on April 14 to urge the release of vulnerable detainees. The center ended up releasing eight of the fourteen plaintiffs. There were two other reported releases of detainees in late March, totaling the number to 36.
As of April 24, before any detainees had tested positive, three GEO Group staffers and two ICE employees were found to have the coronavirus. In a May 20 ‘ICE Accountability Report’ (PDF) released by Rep. Jason Crow (D-CO6), the numbers have increased to five and three, respectively.
Davalos-Grijalva’s husband told her during a recent phone call that the guards blow air into their gloves like balloons and pop them. The gloves are meant to be part of their Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
On May 18, the national group, Doctors for Camp Closure, attempted to deliver hundreds of masks to detainees at the Colorado center, however the detention workers who came outside to meet the healthcare workers refused the masks.
Other tactics used by immigrant rights advocates and families of detainees in Colorado and nationwide are car rallies and physically-distanced vigils over the past few months. One of the car rallies in Aurora was located in the neighborhoods of the center’s CEO and warden Johnny Choate and ICE field office director John Fabbricatore.
The current encampment in Aurora is the third that immigrant rights advocates in Colorado have set up in the last two years. There was one in summer 2018 outside the Denver ICE Field Office in Centennial and one in fall 2018 outside the detention center in Aurora.
Campers outside the center say they won’t leave until everyone who is inside is freed. In order to make the protest camp as sustainable as possible, the group made call-outs for more people to show up and camp, for camping supplies, for food and water drop-offs, etc.
Kesha Davalos-Grijalva’s young daughter, whose father is a detainee, also spoke with us Sunday morning, reitering the demand of the encampment:
“I just want them to take him out and that’s all because he didn’t do nothing.”
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Unicorn Riot's Coverage of the Sanctuary Movement and Immigration:
- Another Immigrant Claims Sanctuary from Deportation in Colorado (Feb. 14, 2020)
- Immigrant Rights Advocates Rally in Response to Rotten Food Given to Detainees (Jan. 6, 2020)
- Ingrid Encalada Latorre Pardoned After 2+ Years Claiming Sanctuary (Dec. 28, 2019)
- The Price to Oversee ICE: 200+ Protesters March in Aurora Suburb Home to GEO Group ICE Warden (Sep. 30, 2019)
- Twin Cities Jewish Community Blockades ICE Building, 27 Cited (Aug. 2, 2019)
- Passions Run High at ‘Close the Concentration Camps’ Protest (July 22, 2019)
- Hundreds in CO Plan Rally to ‘Close the Concentration Camps’ (July 12, 2019)
- Thousands March in Minneapolis to Stop Separating Families (June 30, 2019)
- Jeanette Vizguerra’s U-Visa Denied While in Sanctuary Second Time (June 27, 2019)
- CO Community Gathers Outside GEO ICE Facility on Longest Day of Year (June 21, 2019)
- Occupy ICE Denver Camps Outside GEO ICE Detention Center (Oct. 29, 2018)
- #OccupyICE Movement Grows Momentum in Colorado (Aug. 6, 2018)
- ICE Occupation Emerges at Denver Field Office (July 30, 2018)
- Philadelphia Reduces Police Help To ICE; ‘Occupy ICE’ Camp Moves (July 30, 2018)
- Protesters Occupy Philadelphia ICE Office (July 2, 2018)
- Protests Target ICE Contractor General Dynamics (June 29, 2018)
- Ninth Annual CO Love Knows No Borders, No Walls Vigil (Feb. 5, 2018)
- November Vigil at GEO Group ICE Detention Center in CO (Nov. 6, 2017)
- Ingrid Encalada Latorre Returns to Sanctuary; Four Claim Sanctuary in CO (Oct. 27, 2017)
- Ingrid Encalada Latorre Leaves Sanctuary After Six Months; Granted Temporary Stay (May 27, 2017)
- Indonesian Undocumented Immigrant Detained at ICE Check-In (May 24, 2017)
- Jeanette Vizguerra, Among Others, Celebrate Victories Against ICE Deportation Attempts (May 17, 2017)
- Sanctuary Movement Leader, Arturo Hernandez Garcia, Detained by ICE While at Work (April 30, 2017)
- Jeanette Vizguerra Named One of Time’s 100 Most Influential People as She Remains in Sanctuary (April 22, 2017)
- Crisis: Borderlands (March 14, 2017)
- Arizona Anti-ICE Demo Meets Arrests and Chemical Agents (Feb. 17, 2017)
- Deportations Begin Under Trump’s Regime (Feb. 14, 2017)
- Love Knows No BAN No Walls Vigil at GEO ICE Detention Center (Feb. 8, 2017)
Unicorn Riot's COVID–19 Coverage:
- The Coronavirus Crisis in Brazil – An Interview with EmiciThug - May 22, 2020
- Nurses Picket Over Lack of Protection From Ongoing Viral Pandemic - May 21, 2020
- Mutual Aid to Detained Refugee Women Grows — Coronavirus in Greece Part 3 - May 7, 2020
- Minneapolis May Day Protest Supports Essential Workers - May 2, 2020
- MN Demonstrations, Demands to Free Prisoners Escalate - April 30, 2020
- Denver ‘Clean-ups’ Displace 100+ Unhoused Residents Amid Health Crisis - April 30, 2020
- Worker-Occupied Factory Sends Soap to Refugee Camp – Coronavirus in Greece, Part 2 - April 28, 2020
- A Country Quarantined, Coronavirus in Greece Part 1 - April 25, 2020
- Who’s Calling to ‘Liberate Minnesota’, and Why? - April 21, 2020
- Living with COVID–19 - April 17, 2020
- Philly Mayor and Judges Pressured To Release Inmates From Jail - April 15, 2020
- Calls for Rent and Mortgage Freeze Outside MN Legislature - April 14, 2020
- What Is Coronavirus and How Do Humans Defeat It? - April 10, 2020
- Car Protest Demands Philadelphia Officials Release Prisoners To Save Lives In Pandemic Crisis - April 10, 2020
- ‘Cancel Rent’ Demo Calls for a Rent and Mortgage Payment Freeze as COVID-19 Spreads - April 9, 2020
- Coronavirus in the Caribbean: COVID–19 Update from Puerto Rico - April 2, 2020
- ‘Never Again’ Demo Demands Release of Detainees Amidst COVID–19 Pandemic - March 30, 2020
- South Africa Under Lockdown as COVID–19 Spreads - March 29, 2020
- Providing Mutual Aid Amidst the Coronavirus Pandemic in Minnesota’s Twin Cities - March 27, 2020
- As U.S. Coronavirus Cases Top the World Charts, Minnesotans’ “Stay at Home” Order Goes Into Effect - March 27, 2020
- “Everyone Deserves A Cost-Of-Living Adjustment”: Interview with UCSC Striker Yulia Gilich - March 26, 2020
- ‘Real boog hours’: Neo-Nazi Terror and the Coronavirus Crisis - March 20, 2020
- Coronavirus Concerns End St. Paul Educators Strike, Close Many Public Schools - March 14, 2020