ICE inmates win $1 a day in court over alleged wage theft

A multibillion-dollar private prison corporation allegedly maximized its profits by forcing immigrant inmates locked up in two of its California facilities to work for $1 a day, according to a class action lawsuit filed July 13 in federal court in Fresno.

The legal challenge accuses GEO Group, a longtime U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement contractor, of “systematic and unlawful wage theft, unjust enrichment and forced labor” at the Mesa Verde ICE processing center in Bakersfield and nearby Golden State Annex at McFarland.

The plaintiffs – nine ICE detainees who filed suit on behalf of other immigrants also imprisoned at the facilities – seek to recover unpaid wages and for GEO to compensate its detained workforce with at least the California minimum wage of $15 an hour.

GEO pays the paltry $1 daily rate to inmates who volunteer to clean dorms and dining rooms, do laundry, assist inmates with disabilities and perform other tasks to maintain facilities, according to the lawsuit.

“We are civilians, we are employed like this and I think the right thing to do is to give us what California has decided as the minimum wage for employees,” said Pedro Figueroa, 33, who until recently, was sweeping floors and scrubbing bathrooms at Mesa Verde for 40 hours a week. “We are fed up with all the injustice here.”

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