November 30, 2021

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Under order to pay immigrants minimum wage, GEO Group instead shuts down ‘voluntary’ work program

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Immigrants detained at NWIPC had been forced to cook, clean, and maintain the facility under the forced program. But because GEO Group suspended the program, none of that’s getting done, detained immigrants told the AP. “It got really gross—nobody cleaned anything,” Ivan Sanchez said in the report. “We pick up after ourselves, but nobody sweeps or mops. The guards were saying it wasn’t their job to clean the toilets. … It caused a lot of animosity between the detainees and the officers because of that.”

This is a choice. GEO Group has the resources to get that taken care of by professionals. It plainly, shamelessly, admitted so in asking the judge overseeing the case to pause the rulings. “The corporation wrote that it has enough money on hand ‘to pay the Judgments twenty times over,’ but said it disagreed with the decisions,” the AP continued. Immigrants said in the report that GEO Group’s suspension is further hurting them because their wages, even though meager, went to purchasing basic items at the commissary. Now GEO Group has cut them off completely.

“While detainees are looking forward to a potential payout, ‘there’s a lot of people in here that that dollar makes a difference,’ Soares said,” the report continued.

In addition to ordering GEO Group to pay immigrants the state’s minimum wage or higher for their work, the court said the company owed $17.3 million to workers. Several days later, the court ordered GEO Group to pay Washington $5.9 million, saying the company “enriched itself by its unfair and unjust practice.” 

“In 2018, GEO reported $2.33 billion in revenue, an increase from $2.18 billion in 2016,” said Investigate, a project of the American Friends Service Committee. GEO Group’s federal contracts have been by far its most lucrative agreements. “ICE contracts represent GEO Group’s single largest source of revenue accounting for 28 percent, an increase from 18 percent in 2015,” Investigate said. While President Biden pledged an end to the government’s use of for-profit prisons, GEO Group just recently gained a new contract.

Like previously noted, thousands of immigrants have borne the brunt of GEO Group’s greed. “While officials portray the labor program as ‘voluntary’ in light of the 13th amendment of the US constitution, detained immigrants are often penalized for refusing to work,” Project South legal and advocacy director Azadeh Shahshahani wrote in The Guardian back in 2018. Some have been punished with solitary confinement, which is torture, for trying to refuse to work.

GEO Group itself has admitted it has the resources to pay immigrants—again, “the corporation wrote that it has enough money on hand ‘to pay the Judgments twenty times over,’” is what the AP reported—but it refuses to. It’s also lying in the process. “Some detainees were given a GEO memo that day explaining they could no longer perform the work they used to do; the memo falsely said ICE had suspended the work program, according to an image provided to the AP,” the report continued.



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