Skip to contents
Opinion Columns

Opinion: Colorado’s representatives in D.C. must take a stand against detention center horrors

Every day, we’re confronted with horrifying new details about the impact of the Trump administration’s barbaric and racist immigration policies.

Families are being separated and children are being denied access to necessary care, with tragic and unconscionable consequences. In the past year, at least six migrant children have died in U.S. custody or shortly after being discharged. 

The Aurora Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center owned and operated by GEO Group, one of the corporations that profits off the pain, suffering, and ultimately the deaths of migrants, is located right in our own backyard.

Feven Enkuselasse

The consequences of Trump’s policies are happening on Colorado’s watch: Immigrants who are detained in this center struggle to get enough to eat, find adequate medical care and access legal resources that might assist them in their cases. 

Every time we visit the Aurora facility, we unearth more horror stories from impacted immigrants who have chosen to bravely speak out.

Alberto, who takes daily medication for blood circulation, has been detained in the Aurora Detention Center for two months and is at risk of losing his leg because GEO Group has denied him his daily medication since his arrival.  

Edgar has been at the detention center since March and is struggling with his mental health. He only gets a few hours of sleep each night because the guards never turn off the lights — any time he or other detainees attempt to cover the light to sleep, they’re subject to the guard’s reprimand and face harsh punishment. 

READ: Colorado Sun opinion columnists.

Those inside of the center know better than any of us that these cruelties cannot go on without resistance, and they are intent on fighting back. When our community protests outside of the Aurora center, they know we are fighting alongside them.

Brenda, detained in July 2018 and deported in July 2019, shared that when guards covered the windows and locked down the center during protests, she didn’t mind. She said, “I don’t care to see the sun as long as I know someone is fighting for me.”

Our communities need the commitments of their representatives to stand alongside them. This is why we’re calling on our elected officials in Congress to take a stand against these hateful policies by stopping the ever-increasing funding of enforcement efforts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Until Congress takes action to hold the administration — and corporations profiting from its policies — accountable, President Trump will continue his horrific treatment of migrants. Congress’ verbal condemnations of ICE and the Trump administration are dangerously insufficient. We need ICE and DHS defunded immediately.

Instead of detention centers and raids, Colorado’s representatives should be calling for real oversight at the southern border and regular updates to ensure that migrants have access to food, medical care and legal assistance.

News reports have detailed inhumane conditions in the detention centers, with migrant children and families forced to sleep on floors and drink water from the toilet.

We now know that it’s common practice for women and children to be forced to stay in frigid holding cells, without access to basics like hand soap, toothbrushes, and diapers. 

Writing another blank check to DHS and ICE will do nothing to prevent further abuse at the hands of the U.S. government, as some representatives have insisted. The money isn’t going toward the wellbeing or safety  of migrants — it’s lining the pockets of private businesses.

Last year, detention contracts accounted for a quarter of CoreCivic and GEO Group’s combined revenues of $4.1 billion.

We believe that families belong together and respect those who strive to build a brighter future for themselves and their children.

The Trump administration has continued to pursue extreme and unlawful immigration policies that target vulnerable families and asylum seekers. The terrible conditions and practices we’re hearing about on the news are happening here.

On our watch. It’s time for Colorado’s representatives to refuse funding to DHS and ICE, instead of making compromises that come at the cost of immigrant lives at the border, in detention, and across the country.   

Feven Enkuselasse is Immigrant Justice Organizer for Colorado People’s Alliance