(ESPAÑOL) There are many issues with immigration centers in this country. They are overcrowded, often with low standards of habitability, there are too few for the large number of immigrants, and they are barely distinguishable from penitentiaries. A problem which was not as visible until now, however, was the compelled labor detainees were subjected to during their stay at Aurora Detention Facility in Colorado.
The situation has come to light when Grisel Xahuentitla informed the media of the center’s “voluntary” work program which allowed detainees to earn $1 a day to help with the upkeep of the facility. Grisel, along with eight other former detainees, have filed a lawsuit of unjust enrichment against the operator of the facility for the 6 hours of work a day the inmates put in scrubbing toilets, scouring showers, and doing other menial tasks for minimal pay.
Although only 8 plaintiffs have been joined in this suit, the effects of this case could affect a class of up to 60,000 immigrants who were held at this facility over the last decade (another testament to the overcrowding in this 1,500 bed facility). All of these former detainees assert that they were coerced into doing menial tasks around the facility for almost no pay or be thrown into solitary confinement. Only a class of 2,000 people, including Xahuentitla, assert that they took part of the voluntary work program, although she also alleges she was only paid for two of the four weeks she was there.
The Aurora center belongs to GEO Group, which operates dozens of private prisons and detention centers across the country. The company asserted in court that the voluntary work program has been fully authorized by the federal government and has been for decades. Furthermore, the company has refuted the allegations of abuse, and plan on continuing to do so throughout the litigation process.