Big US detention center sued for paying detainees $1 a day - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Big US detention center sued for paying detainees $1 a day

Posted: Updated:
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File). FILE - In this April 12, 2017, file photo, students and other immigration-rights supporters gather outside tents by the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash. Washington state on Wednesday, Sept. 20, sued the operat... (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File). FILE - In this April 12, 2017, file photo, students and other immigration-rights supporters gather outside tents by the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash. Washington state on Wednesday, Sept. 20, sued the operat...

By PHUONG LE
Associated Press

SEATTLE (AP) - Washington state on Wednesday sued the operator of one of the largest private immigration detention centers in the United States, claiming thousands of detainees were paid $1 per day for the work they performed but should have received the state's much higher minimum wage.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the lawsuit claiming The GEO Group made millions of dollars and profits by illegally exploiting the workers. The Florida-based company owns and operates the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma under a contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Detainees since 2005 did laundry, cooked, cleaned and performed other work but were only paid $1 per day and in some cases did not receive that much because they were paid in food or snacks, the lawsuit said.

"The law is clear. They should have been paid the state's minimum wage at the time they were working," Ferguson told reporters in Seattle.

GEO denied the claims, saying the center has a volunteer work program and minimum wages rates and standards specified exclusively by the federal government under standards set for detainees in 2011.

The company in an emailed statement said it "refutes the baseless and meritless allegations made in this lawsuit, and we intend to vigorously defend our company against these claims."

Ferguson said the 2011 standards required GEO to pay detainees at least $1 day for their labor, but said the company was also required to follow Washington's minimum wage laws and that detainees that provide labor were protected as "employees." The state's minimum wage ranged from $7.35 an hour in 2005 to $11 an hour now.

GEO's contract with the federal government requires it to comply with state laws, Ferguson added.

The detention center opened in 2004 with 500 beds and now has 1,575, making it the fourth largest immigration detention centers in the U.S., according to Washington state officials. People are held at the center while facing deportation or other immigration proceedings.

The lawsuit seeks a court order for GEO to comply with Washington minimum wage laws and to give up profits that it allegedly made by underpaying detainees. The amount is expected to be millions of dollars, Ferguson said.

Ferguson said state officials would look into whether it would be possible to pay the former detainees back wages if it wins monetary damages in the case, but said it would be challenging to track them down.

State officials will probably ask a judge to put any money awarded into a fund that would support people who are detained at the center and to people in the community near the center who may have been unable to find employment because the detainees were paid less than minimum wage.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Most Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Las Vegas man shot and killed after jumping off balcony

    Las Vegas man shot and killed after jumping off balcony

    Tuesday, December 12 2017 7:48 PM EST2017-12-13 00:48:21 GMT
    LVMPD officers investigate the scene of a deadly shooting Dec. 11, 2017 (FOX5).LVMPD officers investigate the scene of a deadly shooting Dec. 11, 2017 (FOX5).

    Las Vegas Metropolitan Police said one person is dead after a shooting near Vegas Valley Drive and Nellis Boulevard Monday evening.  

    More >

    Las Vegas Metropolitan Police said one person is dead after a shooting near Vegas Valley Drive and Nellis Boulevard Monday evening.  

    More >
  • Death of 2-hour-old baby ruled murder, no charges filed

    Death of 2-hour-old baby ruled murder, no charges filed

    Tuesday, December 12 2017 2:56 AM EST2017-12-12 07:56:32 GMT
    This generic image shows the silhouette of a pregnant woman. (Meredith Image)This generic image shows the silhouette of a pregnant woman. (Meredith Image)

    The death of a baby boy earlier this year who lived for less than two hours has been classified as a murder, according to Metro Police.

    More >

    The death of a baby boy earlier this year who lived for less than two hours has been classified as a murder, according to Metro Police.

    More >
  • Our Apologies

    The page you requested is currently unavailable. Pages on this site are constantly being revised, updated, and occasionally removed. You may have followed an outdated link or have outdated pages in your

    You have reached a page which is currently unavailable. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please use your browser's BACK button to return to the previous page

    More >
Powered by Frankly
Fox 5
Powered by WorldNow CNN
All content © 2017, KVVU Broadcasting Corporation, Las Vegas, NV and WorldNow. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.