More than 10,000 immigrants They were getting a dollar a day Or candy to clean toilets, cook and do laundry in a special detention center in Washington State, they will receive compensation $17.3 million Consider them victims of wage theft, a federal jury decided.
GEO Group, the company that owns an immigration prison in Tacoma called the Northwest ICE Processing Center, You violated the minimum wage law for more than 15 years The panel concluded that Washington required a minimum wage of $13.69 per hour.
This ruling, which derives from a lawsuit brought by the Washington Attorney General’s office, could have repercussions in other ICE detention centers that have lasted for several years. They were criticized for “taking advantage” of the people there Waiting for a response to your asylum application or until your immigration status is resolved.
Washington Attorney General’s Office complaint alleges that GEO “became unfairly rich” It took advantage of “large-scale violations of the minimum wage,” even though it expected an annual profit of $57 million by operating a prison facility with the capacity to hold up to 1575 immigrants. It is actually the fourth largest ICE in the country. In 2015, I renewed a contract with that agency that expires in 2025.
This federal jury has ordered GEO to pay minimum wages or more to immigrants with federal custody who agree to work at the Tacoma facility from now on.
The company did not respond to messages sent by Univision Noticias seeking comment.
For its part, an ICE spokesperson responded that they would not issue a statement “regarding the outcome of the ongoing litigation” and said it would “be better” to seek the opinion of the GEO, as the center in question is operating under a signed contract with that company.
Lawyers representing the plaintiffs said they would seek to ask each of those affected to hand over $17.3 million in compensation, even if they are in their home countries. The amounts they will receive range from about $20 to over $30,000, according to their working hours. On average they will be given About $1700.
“This multi-billion dollar company has illegally taken advantage of the people it is holding to fill their pockets,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson. Permit.
The official stressed that the payment of back wages to be provided by Jio Group “sends a clear message that Washington will not tolerate corporate wealth violating people’s rights.”
“I knew I had the ability to pay more”
The suit filed by the Office of the Attorney General in September 2017 alleges that GEO Group is using detained immigrant labor to “perform virtually all non-security functions” at its Tacoma prison, which it has operated since 2005.
The lawsuit notes that for nearly 20 years, the company has been paying $1 a day or sometimes Just extra fast food Thousands of immigrants who have performed a series of jobs necessary to run the center, including Prepare and serve food, operate laundry services and clean almost all facilities, Except for the areas where detainees are not allowed to enter.
What is more, Save operating expenses for thousands of hair styles Every year, his barber shop is also entirely staffed by internees.
GEO Group, headquartered in Florida, reported Income over $2 billion in the year 2020.
In its statement, the Public Prosecutor’s Office indicated that during the trial several of the company’s employees testified that they “knew it had the ability to pay more,” but that they used the detainees’ labor to reduce their salaries.
In interviews with prosecutors, detainees described this They spent whole nights polishing the floors and painting the walls “for chips and candy.”
Geo’s group argued in court that the state of Washington pays inmates less than the minimum wage in its correctional facilities and stressed that detainees cannot be considered “employees” under state law.
But prosecutors noted that current regulations do not include exceptions for private prisons and made clear that people held at the Tacoma facility “are not criminals, nor are they part of a treatment or rehabilitation program.”
This week, a federal judge is expected to decide how much Jio Group will pay the state.