The attorney general of Washington state filed a lawsuit Wednesday to increase pay for illegal immigrants who are being held in one of the state’s detention centers.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s lawsuit argues that the detainees in one of the Geo Group’s detention centers have a right to be paid the state minimum wage of $11 an hour. The GEO Group (Geo) is a private prison corporation that owns and operates nearly 150 detention centers nationwide and pays illegal immigrant detainees $1 a day to prepare food in kitchens and perform maintenance work, The Seattle Times reported.
“Let’s be honest about what’s going on,” Ferguson said at a conference Wednesday. “Geo has a captive population of vulnerable individuals who cannot easily advocate for themselves. This corporation is exploiting those workers for their own profits.”
Geo was quick to issue a statement denying any wrongdoing, however, claiming the work program relied strictly on volunteers.
“Geo strongly refutes the baseless and meritless allegations made in this lawsuit, and we intend to vigorously defend our company against these claims,” The group said. “The volunteer work program at all federal immigration facilities as well as the minimum wage rates and standards associated with the program are set exclusively by the federal government.”
Ferguson’s lawsuit is the culmination of a months-long investigation into Geo which found that some illegal immigrant workers were paid even less than $1 a day or simply received snacks for their work, according to Reuters.
The lawsuit is the second of its kind against Geo. The corporation was sued after the labor program at a detention center in Colorado was likened to a forced labor program.
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