Over the course of the past few months, at least five lawsuits have been filed against Contract Detention Facilities (“CDF”s) alleging that the CDFs’ payments to immigrant detainees of $1 per day through Voluntary Work Programs violate state minimum wage laws, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, unjust enrichment, and other labor laws. One of these lawsuits has been filed right here in Colorado. Judge Kane of the District Court of Colorado certified a class of up to 60,000 current and former GEO detention center immigrant detainees who allege that they were forced to clean the detention center without pay and were threatened with solitary confinement if they refused to do so. Riding on the back of immigrant labor, GEO was able to reduce costs at its Aurora facility, where it employs just one custodian in a building that can house up to 1,500 detainees.
Now, on March 7, 2018, 18 House Republicans signed a letter to the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, and ICE asking them to participate in the pending litigation or to issue guidance to oppose the claims set forth in the various lawsuits. They claim that the detainees are using immigration detention to obtain stable employment “that will encourage them to pursue frivolous claims to remain in the country and in detention for as long as possible.” They also claim that the advocates filing the lawsuits intend to “raise the overall costs of immigration detention, in order to discourage its use and diminish the overall level of immigration enforcement in the United States.” They tie the lawsuits to sanctuary cities and claim that the rate of “no-shows” in immigration court will increase if the lawsuits succeed.
We will continue to monitor the status of these lawsuits as they proceed. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to contact an attorney at Joseph Law Firm, PC.
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