EPI Report

Mother Jones Article

How a Private Prison Company Used Detained Immigrants for Free Labor

Mother Jones

And what it could mean for the future of immigration detention in America.

When Carlos Eliezer Ortiz Muñoz arrived at the Denver Contract Detention Facility in Aurora, Colorado, in 2014, he was given a clothing package and assigned to a housing unit, where he'd have to stay for months. Like tens of thousands of other immigrants across the country who are kept in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention each night, Ortiz and his fellow detainees were waiting to see if they'd win their immigration cases or face deportation.

Before long, the private prison company that ran the detention center put Ortiz to work. Each day in his housing unit, guards assigned a crew of six detainees to clean the private and common living areas; scrub down toilets, showers, and eating tables; and sweep and mop floors.

"None of us got paid anything," Ortiz said in a court statement. But he couldn't protest—he knew he could be sent to solitary confinement if he refused to do the cleaning. "Some of the guards would threaten us by saying, '¿Quieres ir al hoyo?'" Ortiz said. "'You want to go to the hole?'"

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Hispanic Affairs Project Press Release

Hispanic Affairs Project has sent out a press release that highlights Towards Justice's Western slope outreach trip this past week! Lindsay Fallon and Justin Grant traveled to Grand Junction, Montrose, Telluride, and Gunnison to lead trainings and present on the work Towards Justice does in the fight against wage theft.                                                                                                            Click below to read in English or Spanish.

Immigrant Rights are Labor Rights

Derechos de los Inmigrantes son Derechos Laborales

Free Speech Radio News

Click HERE to listen to a radio interview with Towards Justice Executive Director Nina DiSalvo on Free Speech Radio News (FSRN)

60,000 immigrants held at Colorado facility sue GEO Group for forced labor

Attorney General Jeff Sessions traveled to the US-Mexico border in Arizona this week, where he issued new guidelines for ramped up immigration enforcement. He ordered additional charges be brought against undocumented immigrants when possible and directed that repeat entrants be charged with felony crimes. The new guidelines also call for the prosecution of anyone involved in transporting or harboring undocumented immigrants. While the stated goal aims to target people smugglers, members of mixed status families fear that provision could be used against them for things as basic as living together or for traveling in the same car.

Private prison operators are already cashing in on the Trump-era crackdown. The GEO Group announced Thursday it has secured a contract with the government to build a new 1000 bed, $110 million immigration prison in Conroe, Texas – just north of Houston. The contract comes as the GEO Group faces a class-action lawsuit in Colorado, where at least 60,000 immigrants accuse the for-profit detention company of forcing them to work for little or no pay under threat of solitary confinement. Hannah Leigh Myers reports.

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Courthouse News Service Article

Class Says Hotel Staffing Firm Cheated Them

     DENVER (CN) – Colorado hotel workers claim in a class action that a national staffing company and major hotels that relied on them as temporary help routinely cheated them on their paychecks.
     Isabel Valverde, the lead plaintiff in the federal lawsuit, says Xclusive Staffing and its clients, including Marriott International Inc. and Omni Hotels, failed to pay temporary workers for overtime and made unfair deductions from the workers’ paychecks,.

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Mint Press News Article

Lawsuit May Set Precedent On Forced Immigrant Labor In Private Prisons
Brought under anti-slavery provisions of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA), the lawsuit could also be used as a basic template for other litigation challenging incarcerated slave labor.
By Jared Ware @jaybeware | April 11, 2017

In March, District Court Judge John Kane granted class action certification to a lawsuit challenging slave labor practices at a private immigrant detention center in Aurora, Colorado, operated by GEO Group, Inc.

The decision, in the case known as Menocal v GEO Group, drastically increases the lawsuit’s potential implications. It will enable between 50,000-60,000 people formerly incarcerated at the GEO Group facility to seek remedy for their forced labor.

A favorable judgement or settlement from an anti-slavery class action lawsuit would be a major victory for these formerly incarcerated people and a serious financial setback for GEO Group.

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Law360 Article

Au Pairs Get Conditional Cert. In Wage-Fixing Action

Law360, New York (March 31, 2017, 4:41 PM EDT) -- A Colorado federal judge on Friday conditionally certified a collective action by 11 classes of au pairs who allege that sponsoring agencies colluded to set unreasonably low pay rates for program participants.

U.S. District Judge Christine M. Arguello determined that the au pairs presented sufficient information to establish that the case should proceed with 11 classes of au pairs, based on which entities were their sponsors and on various types of work circumstances, according to the judge's order.

While the defendant au pair agencies sought to...

Politico Magazine Article

‘They Think We Are Slaves’
The U.S. au pair program is riddled with problems—and new documents show that the State Department might know more than it’s letting on.
By: ZACK KOPPLIN March 27, 2017

Politico Magazine

For Juliana, America was supposed to be the promised land. It wasn’t.

Juliana traveled here in 2015 from Brazil to become an au pair—a visiting domestic worker in a State Department program designed to build friendship between the United States and other countries. In return for light housework and child care, she would join an American family for a year, learning the language and culture. The private company that arranged her placement assured her she’d be treated with love and kindness.

Instead, Juliana says she worked illegally long hours and wasn’t paid; she was denied food, screamed at and was generally treated like “trash.” Her au pair company, Cultural Care Au Pair, the largest in the U.S, told me her alleged treatment was “unacceptable” and asked me for her name to investigate the situation. But Juliana says when she complained to the company’s representative at the time, she was told to be “flexible.”

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Towards Justice Tri-Annual Report

Hot off the press!  Towards Justice's tri-annual report!

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Winter Newsletter

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