Immigration

As Many as 60,000 Detained Immigrants May Have Engaged in Forced Labor for Private Prison Companies

Class-action lawsuit claims ICE played a part in breaking anti-slavery laws.

Photo Credit: palidachan / Shutterstock.com

As many as 60,000 immigrants detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement could play a role in a class-action lawsuit accusing a private prison company of violating federal anti-slavery laws. The lawsuit alleges that detained immigrants awaiting court dates were forced to work for $1 per day or for free, on threat of solitary confinement.

The suit was initially filed on behalf of nine immigrant plaintiffs in 2014 for $5 million in damages, but was recently moved to class action status. Now, attorneys expect damages to grow substantially, maybe involving tens of thousands of plaintiffs, as Kristine Phillips reports in a March 5 Washington Post piece detailing the lawsuit.

Phillips notes this is “the first time a class-action lawsuit accusing a private U.S. prison company of forced labor has been allowed to move forward.”

The lawsuit was initially filed against the Florida-based corporation GEO Group, which oversees a number of detention facilities that house immigrants who are awaiting court dates. In particular, GEO Group owns Denver Contract Detention Facility, which was the focus of the initial lawsuit.

The lawsuit claims the detention company’s alleged practice of forcing select immigrant detainees to work for little to no pay is a violation of the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act. The act was reauthorized in 2003, 2005 and 2008 and seeks to prevent modern-day versions of slavery.

Read Phillips' entire Washington Post article.

April M. Short is a yoga teacher and writer who previously worked as AlterNet's drugs and health editor. She currently works part-time for AlterNet, and freelances for a number of publications nationwide. She worked as story/line-producer for Psychedelic Science 2017 — Short Form Documentary.

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