Expansion of Colorado detention facility for illegal immigrants wins approval | AspenTimes.com

Expansion of Colorado detention facility for illegal immigrants wins approval

The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado

AURORA, Colo. ” Plans for a $72 million expansion of a privately owned and operated illegal immigrant detention facility can proceed after Aurora City Council members said they weren’t deciding federal immigration policy.

Anthony Paradiso, a property owner near the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement contract facility, filed an objection over the planned expansion from 400 beds to 1,500 beds. He recently withdrew his objection and the council voted Monday to cancel it’s review of the Planning Commission’s approval of the plan.

About 20 people spoke in opposition, mainly on humanitarian grounds.

GEO Group, the private company, agreed not house state prisoners there without approval from the city and to incorporate solar energy.

“We aren’t here to decide federal immigration policy. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion,” Councilman Bob Fitzgerald said to opponents at the meeting.

Added Mayor Ed Tauer: “While to many of you … there’s a very serious issue regarding immgration, that is not what is directly in front of council. (This) is a site plan. It’s an issue of whether this site plan should be allowed to move forward.”

GEO stated in October it was expanding to meet federal agencies’ need for detention space. At 90 percent capacity, GEO estimates the Aurora center ” which houses undocumented immigrants from Colorado, Idaho, Utah and Wyoming ” would generate about $30 million annually in operating revenue.

GEO doesn’t have a new operating contract for the beds from ICE, and opponents raised the prospect that those convicted of crimes would be housed there as the company sought to maintain its profits.

Those housed at the Aurora center are awaiting deportation or hearings on their status and generally are not facing criminal charges. ICE doesn’t use security classifications for its facilities as prisons do because they’re not “correctional in nature,” agency spokesman Carl Rusnok has said.