More than 10,000 immigrants They received one dollar a day Or at a private detention center in the state of Washington, where candies will be provided for cleaning toilets, cooking and laundry. $ 17.3 million Considered a victim of wage theft, a federal arbitral tribunal ruled.
Geo Group, a company owned by an immigration prison known as the Northwest ICE Processing Center in Tacoma, Violated the minimum wage law for more than 15 years In Washington, the panel decided that a minimum wage of $ 13.69 per hour was required.
The ruling, from a lawsuit filed by the Washington Attorney General’s Office, could have an impact on other detention centers of the Immigration and Customs Service (ICE) for years. It was criticized as “exploiting” the people there Waiting for a response to your asylum application or for your immigration status to be resolved.
The Washington Attorney’s Office claims the complaint is GEO “Became unreasonably rich” And benefited from “comprehensive minimum wage violations”, even though it made $ 57 million a year by operating a prison facility capable of staying up to that point. 1,575 immigrants. In fact, it is the fourth largest ICE center in the country. In 2015, it renewed a contract with the agency that expires in 2025.
This federal jury ordered the Geo Group to no longer accept minimum wage or federal detainees to work at its Tacoma facility.
The company did not respond to a request for comment from Univision Notices.
For its part, an ICE spokesman responded that they would not release a statement “on the outcome of the ongoing case” and that it would be “good” to seek GEO’s opinion as the center in question operates under a signed contract. With that company ..
Plaintiffs’ attorneys said they would look for $ 17.3 million in damages, even if the victims were in their home countries. Amounts they receive range from about $ 20 Over $ 30,000, According to the hours they worked. On average they will be awarded About $ 1,700.
“This multi-billion dollar corporation exploited people detained outside the law to sort out their pockets,” said public prosecutor Bob Ferguson. A statement.
The official stressed that GEO Group’s payback sends a clear message: “Washington will not tolerate corporations getting rich by violating people’s rights.”
“I know I have the ability to pay more”
The lawsuit, filed by the prosecutor’s office in September 2017, alleges that the GEO group has been using the labor of detainees detained at its Tacoma prison since 2005 to “perform practically all non-security activities.”
For nearly 20 years, the lawsuit states, the company pays a dollar a day or sometimes more Extra junk foods only Including thousands of immigrants who have done the ongoing work required for the operation of the center Prepare and serve food, run laundry services, clean almost all amenities, Except in areas where prisoners are not allowed to enter.
What else, Saves operating costs for thousands of haircuts Every year, his barber shop is staffed entirely by inmates.
Based in Florida, the Geo Group reported Revenue of over $ 2 billion In 2020.
The attorney’s office said in a statement that during the trial, several employees of the company testified that they “knew they had the ability to pay more,” but that they were using the labor of prisoners to reduce their wages.
In interviews with investigators from the attorney’s office, the detainees described “In exchange for chips and candies” they had to spend the night polishing the floors and painting the walls.
The GEO Group argued in court that Washington State was paying prisoners less than the minimum wage in its reform facilities and insisted that prisoners could not be treated as “employees” under state law.
But prosecutors noted that there are no exceptions to the current rules for private prisons and that those detained at their Tacoma facility are “not criminals and they are not part of a treatment or rehabilitation program.”
The federal judge is expected to decide this week how much the GEO group will pay to the state.
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