Detained Immigrant Workers Request Federal Judge to Affirm Findings Against ICE, GEO Group

Media Contact: Alex Mensing | alex[@]

May 18, 2023

For Immediate Release

ONE-DOLLAR-A-DAY LAWSUIT: Detained Workers in Central Valley Immigration Detention Facilities Request Federal Judge to Affirm Findings Against ICE, GEO Group

New report details unscrupulous behavior and labor violations by private prison operator

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA – Nine people currently and formerly detained at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center (MV) in Bakersfield, Calif., and the Golden State Annex (GSA) in McFarland, Calif., filed a Motion for Summary Adjudication and Partial Class Certification today in the ongoing One-Dollar-A-Day class action lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and GEO Group, the for-profit prison company that owns and operates the detention centers. The plaintiffs allege that detained people subject to GEO’s so-called “Voluntary Work Program” are forced to perform labor for GEO for $1 a day, and qualify as employees of GEO for purposes of California’s minimum wage law. Thus, they are entitled to receive California’s minimum wage of $15/hr for their work and back pay for labor GEO previously forced them to perform in violation of California’s minimum wage law. This motion seeks a ruling from a federal judge in the Eastern District of California, Fresno Division, to that effect, based on the law and undisputed facts and evidence already filed.

“This request to the federal court is not just for us detained in the Central Valley, this is for every incarcerated worker having their wages stolen and being forced to perform labor in dangerous conditions,” said workers at both detention facilities. “Workers all across the country are standing up, organizing, and fighting for fair wages and basic human rights. We are no different. We will continue to use every tool available to us and share our stories to ensure we have access to justice.”

“Our clients have no choice but to work for GEO to keep their already substandard living facilities from becoming even more filthy and unhealthy,” said Ernest Galvan, an attorney at Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld, which brought the lawsuit along with attorneys from the California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice and Centro Legal de la Raza. “GEO takes their labor and pays them almost nothing. It is like something out of Charles Dickens–but it is happening right now, right here in California in 2023.”

On April 27, 2022, detained workers at MV launched a labor strike demanding fair wages, better conditions, and dignity and respect from GEO Group staff. The strike grew soon after when individuals at GSA joined the collective action. On February 17, 2023, after months of silence from ICE and GEO, decaying conditions, and retaliation, 77 individuals at the two central valley detention centers escalated their protest to a 35-day hunger strike. After surviving violent out-of-state transfers and threats of court-ordered force-feeding, hunger strikers announced a pause in order to physically and emotionally recover from ICE and GEO’s terrorizing actions.

A new report published by graduate students from the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs details the inhumane labor conditions at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Center and the Golden State Annex that led detained workers to initiate their ongoing labor strike. The report further exposes the financial incentive for for-profit detention operators such as GEO Group, Inc. to only pay $1-a-day to workers, price-gouge commissary items and phone calls, and fail to provide a safe workplace.

Plaintiffs are represented by attorneys from Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP, California Collaborative for Immigrant Justice, and Centro Legal de la Raza.