The Daily Grind Video

So this is happening.

A new report in The New York Times reveals that tens of thousands of immigrants being held in detention centers across the country are serving as cheap labor for those same centers.

From the NYT

As the federal government cracks down on immigrants in the country illegally and forbids businesses to hire them, it is relying on tens of thousands of those immigrants each year to provide essential labor — usually for $1 a day or less — at the detention centers where they are held when caught by the authorities.

This work program is facing increasing resistance from detainees and criticism from immigrant advocates. In April, a lawsuit accused immigration authorities in Tacoma, Wash., of putting detainees in solitary confinement after they staged a work stoppage and hunger strike. In Houston, guards pressed other immigrants to cover shifts left vacant by detainees who refused to work in the kitchen, according to immigrants interviewed here.

Officials from the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) say that local governments operate 21 of the programs, and private companies run the rest, saving the government and the companies $40 million or more a year.

According to Think Progresssome immigrants being held at county facilities work for free, or are paid with sodas or candy bars.

Many immigrants held in the centers are accused of being in America illegally, but some of the detainees are asylum seekers waiting for their claims to be processed, while others are permanent residents or even citizens whose documentation is under question. Furthermore, many of them are held in the detention centers while they await hearings in an immigration court to determine their legal status. The typical stay is about a month, but some stay for much longer. And at this point half of those will ultimately win their cases and be released.

Immigrants in immigration courts do not have a right to a lawyer, and the growth in won cases is likely because more of them are finally getting access to representation.

When The Times reached out to the private companies, they insisted the programs were legal, voluntary, and saved taxpayers money.

Gillian M. Christensen, a spokeswoman for ICE, reiterated those points to the Times, while adding there are usually more volunteers than jobs and that the payments are stipends, not wages.

“The program allows detainees to feel productive and contribute to the orderly operation of detention facilities,” she said.

To read more of the NYT’s revealing report, click here.


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