ICE Begins Coronavirus Testing at Aurora Detention Center

Aurora is one of two monitored facilities nationwide, and testing could expand to other ICE facilities

More than 60,000 current and former detainees of the Aurora ICE Processing Center won class certification at the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month. / LAW WEEK FILE

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Tuesday that “voluntary COVID-19 testing” began at the Aurora Contract Detention Facility. The tests are available for “all current detainees and new admissions to the facilities,” according to a press release from the agency.

Aurora is the second ICE facility to have voluntary testing and is part of a test stage before the testing program is rolled out to other facilities around the country. ICE began voluntary COVID tests at the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma, Washington on June 2.

“In the face of this pandemic, expanding testing for detainees is another proactive step ICE is taking to safeguard those in our custody,” said Henry Lucero, executive associate director for ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations, in the release.

ICE’s plan is to evaluate the COVID-19 testing at these two initial locations before expanding the program to other facilities. 

Before expanded testing can be implemented, ICE facilities must show that staff have proper personal protective equipment to “ensure safety during testing” and have operational plans in place to “properly house detainees based on test results,” according to the release.

ICE is using molecular testing methods to detect COVID-19 in combination with methods recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the release. In addition, ICE is using technology granted Emergency Use Authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This includes Abbott ID NOW instruments and Rapid RNA testing in combination, and use of existing lab testing capabilities from commercial labs. Tests are expected to return results to detainees within a week.

In all, 459 out of a total 570 detainees at the Washington ICE facility volunteered for testing, and those who had declined a test previously can still request one, according to the release. 

The detainees tested at the facility were informed of their test results on Monday by ICE Health Service Corps personnel. The results, according to the release, came back predominantly negative with one positive. 

“The subject that tested positive arrived May 29 and has been not [sic] been admitted into general population [sic], in accordance with agency guidance that encourages facilities to isolate new admissions into the detention network for 14 days,” the press release reads.

As of Wednesday morning, ICE’s website listed a total 25,421 individuals in ICE custody. Of that number, 838 have tested positive for the virus, out of a total number of 5,096 tested. These numbers are updated as information is received and are subject to change. A total of 130 ICE employees have tested positive for the virus, 45 of whom are employees at detention centers.

A total of 429 individuals in ICE custody have been released per court orders, and many of the court decisions are being “actively” litigated by ICE, according to its website. “These are non-discretionary releases on the part of ICE, and as a result, they do not necessarily undergo the same public safety, flight risk and/or medical analysis.”

“However, many of the individuals ordered released by federal courts have extensive criminal histories and pose a potential public safety threat. ICE is providing this information in this forum to ensure complete transparency. ICE has also provided this information to Congress,” the ICE website reads.

The same section of this website lists criminal charges or convictions. One individual from Denver is listed here with “criminal charges or convictions” of forgery. 

— Avery Martinez

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