2/27/2017 Press Release

2/27/2017 Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tens of Thousands of Immigrant Detainees Proceed in Class Action Lawsuit Alleging the Country’s Second Largest Private Prison Provider Engaged in Forced Labor

Denver, CO – For the first time in history, a federal court allowed a class of immigrant detainees to jointly proceed with forced labor claims against the country’s second-largest private prison provider. Judge Kane in the District of Colorado certified a class of between 50,000 and 60,000 current and former immigrant detainees held at GEO’s Aurora, Colorado detention facility since 2004. These individuals, some of whom were found to legally reside in this country after months in detention, allege that they were forced to clean the detention center without pay and under threat of solitary confinement. This practice allowed GEO to reduce labor costs at the Aurora facility, where it employs just one custodian to maintain a detention center that houses up to 1,500 people at a time.

“American immigration policy is too often driven by the profit motives of the private corporations that we pay to round up and detain our immigrants,” said Nina DiSalvo, Executive Director of Towards Justice, the nonprofit legal group helping to represent the immigrant detainees. “By certifying the Rule 23 classes, Judge Kane’s ruling allows vulnerable detainees to band together and hold GEO accountable for profiteering on the backs of its captive labor force.”

Grisel Xahuentitla Flores, a former detainee at GEO’s Aurora facility and a plaintiff in the case said, “I was detained at GEO in Aurora for four months in 2014. Like me, thousands of immigrant detainees were used by GEO to make as much profit as possible. If the detainees did a good enough job keeping our pods clean, sometimes the guards would give us a prize of ice cream and cookies, or let us watch a movie, all while they continued to profit off keeping us in the detention center. I am proud to stand up for what is right and am honored be one of nine lead plaintiffs in this class action lawsuit.”

R. Andrew Free, The Law Office of R. Andrew Free, further explained, “GEO is a Real Estate Trust that imprisons human beings for money and forces them to clean its facilities in order its maximize profits. These practices are not just morally repugnant legacies of the convict-lease system and its antecedents; they are illegal. Today's order is a pivotal step toward ending these dehumanizing and abhorrent practices and restoring justice and dignity to our immigration system.”

“Today’s decision allows the tens of thousands of immigrants unlawfully forced to labor in GEO’s detention center to combine their claims, allowing them to effectively take on a vast multinational corporation like GEO,” said Andrew Turner, The Kelman Buescher Firm, Plaintiffs’ Counsel. 

Hans Meyer, of the Meyer Law Office, P.C., who represents Ms. Flores and several other plaintiffs in their immigration matters, explained, “For years, the GEO Group has profiteered at taxpayer expense from mandatory detention laws that private prison corporations lobbied to pass. Today’s decision granting class certification is an important step in the larger battle to stand up to the brutality and rapaciousness of the Trump administration’s mass deportation agenda. We all know who won the battle of David and Goliath, and we look forward to the next phase of this fight.” 

Media contact:  Nina DiSalvo, Executive Director of Towards Justice: (970) 403-5694; nina@towardsjustice.org