At ICE facilities like Golden State Annex and Mesa Verde, work programmes, which ICE says are voluntary, pay detained people $1 per day for tasks like sanitation, laundry duty and maintenance.
Michael Childers, a professor of labour education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, testified that the company saved about $26.7m from 2011 to 2019 by using detained immigrants as labourers instead of hiring outside workers, whom they would have had to compensate with higher wages.
Andrew Free, a former immigration lawyer, told Al Jazeera that an “atmosphere of deprivation” is common in the company’s facilities, creating conditions where detainees feel pressured to work.
He explained, “If your daily meals don’t have enough nutrition or are of very poor quality, you have to buy food from the commissary to have a full diet,” he said. “The choice to work for $1 a day or face deprivation of basic necessities is not truly voluntary.”
The use of jailed workers to perform tasks such as maintenance and sanitation is common throughout the US criminal justice system, and social justice advocates have portrayed the practice as exploitative. Law enforcement organisations argue that imprisoned labourers are an economic boon to the state.
“Until I drop.” That’s how long 22-year-old Cruz Martinez says he is committed to carrying out his hunger strike against the conditions at immigration detention centres in the United States. “GEO is a billion-dollar company, and they’re paying us $1 a day,” he said. “They’re getting rich off of us.”
‘Slavery wages’ prompt hunger strike at ICE detention facilities | Prison News | Al Jazeera
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