University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
Immigrant Detention Labor Issues: A Clearinghouse Special Collection
November 11, 2021
A new Clearinghouse special collection focuses on challenges to labor practices at immigrant detention centers across the country. Persons currently or formerly held in civil immigration detention centers sued either GEO Group or Core Civic, two private companies that operate prisons and detention centers. They alleged that these defendants maintained a combination of illegal labor practices including wage theft, unjust enrichment, and forced labor, including requiring work for little or no pay. Plaintiffs have brought claims under state causes of action, the federal Trafficking Victims Protection Act and 18 U.S.C. § 1589, the federal law prohibiting forced labor. Courts in several of these cases have granted class certification.

Notably, on October 29, 2021, a jury in the Western District of Washington awarded the plaintiff class a verdict of $17.3 million in backpay in Chen v. GEO Group, in which plaintiffs sued GEO Group for paying workers $1/day in violation of state law. The state of Washington also brought a companion case to Chen, Washington v. GEO Group. There, the court held a jury trial in June 2021, and the jury awarded the state a judgment of $5,950,340 and enjoined GEO Group from continuing “the Voluntary Work Program,” which it had been operating without paying workers the minimum wage.

The special collection is here.