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Modern-day slavery in US ICE detention centers?

Felicia Persaud | 6/29/2017, 9:06 a.m.

Just when you thought being arrested and detained as an immigrant was bad enough, a new lawsuit sheds light on the nightmare that is the entire immigration detention system.

In fact, according to a recent lawsuit filed by a group of former detainees and reported by The Associated Press, the system equates to modern-day slavery in many privately run detention centers across the country.

Although these private prisons—which have federal contracts with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to house people accused of civil violations of immigration law until they are deported or released—can legally require detainees to clean up their personal areas, the lawsuit alleges that at least one of the nation’s major detention contractors compelled detainees to work without pay, cleaning up common areas as well.

The GEO Group, which recently won a $110 million contract to build the first new immigrant detention center under the Donald Trump administration as he looks to ramp up arrests and deportation of immigrants, is accused by former detainees of compelling tens of thousands of immigrants to clean common living areas for free over a decade at the 1,500-bed Aurora, Colo., detention center.

The company is accused of operating with just one full-time janitor while it forced detainees to work for free. Sounds like slavery.

The immigrant detainees were allegedly required to clean and maintain common areas for free, even as GEO raked in $2.2 billion in revenue and had nearly $163 million in adjusted net income last year.

U.S. government rules require detainees to keep their personal living areas clean without pay but not common areas. The federal rules also allow that prisoners can be hired to jobs as varied as landscaping, cleaning and cutting other inmates’ hair, for at least $1 a day.

But the U.S. Justice Department’s National Institute of Corrections rules also clearly state that although people convicted of crimes and serving time in prison are often required to work, those simply held in the nation’s jails, such as detainees, generally cannot be forced to work because they have not been convicted of a crime.

Yet records show GEO is allegedly not alone in putting inmates to work for free in this modern-day servitude in the USA. After a November inspection, the U.S. Homeland Security Department’s Office of Inspector General found the publicly run Theo Lacy Jail Facility in California violated that rule as well by requiring detainees to clean common-area showers.

And another lawsuit filed in May against CoreCivic, the nation’s largest private prison operator, challenges similar labor practices at its San Diego immigration detention center.

But who really cares if this practice is against the law and the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery and bars involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime?

Certainly not El Trumpeto and his cohorts, as they push for more detention and hand out more contracts to their private prison buddies and slap them on the back for keeping those “aliens” in check while finding a way to return a new form of slavery to America!

The writer is CMO at Hard Beat Communications, Inc. which owns the brands: NewsAmericasNow, CaribPRWire and InvestCaribbeanNow.