Immigrants held in detention centers in Aurora and across the country had trouble using the phone to access legal assistance, according to a government report.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office examined Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention facilities nationwide from May 2006 to May 2007 in its annual report to Congress released last week.

While the GAO did not find extreme deficiencies, they noted access problems at 16 out of 17 ICE detention centers when detainees tried to call for pro-bono legal assistance. The rate of successful connections made by telephone was never above 74 percent, the report says.

The report also noted that the number of detainees in Aurora hold rooms exceeded capacity and logbooks were not maintained to determine how long the detainees were held in those rooms or when they last ate.

In October 2006, ICE reviewers cited the Aurora facility for lack of cleanliness in its food service preparation and a four-week rotating menu rather than a required five-week menu rotation.

Also, the detention center received a deficient rating in sanitation because the kitchen area was not properly cleaned.

ICE has agreed to comply with the GAO recommendations by conducting routine checks to see if the phones are working, said ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok.

The Rocky Mountain Immigrant Advocacy Network, which provides legal assistance to detainees in Aurora, said it heard the telephone problem has been rectified. "We have been working with the facility and talking to family members of those who have been detained and already we are receiving ... evidence that things are improving," said network program development director Dayna Anderson.