Liberty Link: Jailed Immigrants as a Pool of Cheap Labor

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A terrific article in the New York Times calls out government officials for using detained immigrants as extremely cheap labor at federal detention centers. For performing such essential tasks as preparing meals, scrubbing bathrooms, and buffing hallways, the jailed workers are paid all of 13 cents an hour (i.e., a dollar a day) – far less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour that would be paid to contractors.

The practice is widespread. More than 60,000 detainees worked at detention centers around the nation last year. As Carl Takei, an attorney with the ACLU’s National Prison Project pointed out,

“This in essence makes the government, which forbids everyone else from hiring people without documents, the single largest employer of undocumented immigrants in the country.”

Resistance is mounting. The exploitative wage level was among the grievances that sparked a work stoppage and series of hunger strikes at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma this spring. The Times mentions the ACLU-Columbia Legal Services lawsuit over detainees being placed in solitary confinement in retaliation for participating in the protests. After it was filed, the men were released from solitary.

To learn more, visit the New York Times.