A lawsuit was recently certified as an immigrant rights class action for those held detention center in Aurora, Colorado.
A lawsuit originally filed in 2014 on behalf of plaintiffs Alejandro Menocal, Marcos Brambila, Grisel Xahuentitla, Hugo Hernandez, Lourdes Argueta, Jesus Gaytan, Olga Alexaklina, Dagoberto Vizguerra and Demetrio Valerga accusing the GEO, an organization which runs many immigrant detention facilities and prisons across the United States, of threatening to place detainees in its holding facilities in solitary confinement if they refuse to work, has gained significant traction. The case for immigrant rights was recently certified as a class action lawsuit now with over 60,000 immigrants alleging they were held in a detention center in Aurora, Colorado, and forced to work for next to nothing – sometimes no more than $1 a day – while awaiting potential deportation. The class specifically cited violations of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in their case, which was originally established to help curtail human trafficking in the international sex trade.
As President Trump and his administration are forging ahead with plans to deport higher numbers of immigrants than ever before, Senior Judge John Kane’s ruling for a class action suit could boost the cost of holding these individuals by millions of dollars.
“There is a big difference between someone convicted of murder or rape and someone being held on a civil detainer for possible deportation,” says plaintiff’s attorney Nina DiSalvo. Those being held in Colorado on felony charges are subjected to similar working conditions, but they, unlike those simply awaiting deportation, have actually proven to be a menace to society. The immigrants are only being civilly held, and are still entitled to their basic rights.
The lawsuit is also holding GEO responsible for violating the detainees rights by utilizing unfair enrichment, basically forcing them to care for the facility, by performing tasks such as cleaning, doing laundry and preparing meals, for the past three years. GEO fired back that the work program is voluntary, and it didn’t force anyone into doing these things. Pablo Paez, a GEO spokesperson, states that the organization employs on-site contract monitors to ensure compliance with ICE guidelines and fair treatment to those being held.
“We have consistently, strongly refuted these allegations,” Paez states, adding, “And, we intend to continue to vigorously defend our company against these claims.”
The GEO further maintains none of the immigrants were ever put in solitary confinement for refusing to complete assigned tasks. However, Judge Kane says this doesn’t matter “since the forced labor status includes threats” which the members have stated they were subjected to.
All current and former detainees at the GEO facility were automatically added as members of the class upon certification of the case. Judge Kane noted that members have little funds and, therefore, it is unlikely they would have been able to seek attorney representation and judicial remedies on their own. Certifying the case will ensure that all members are heard regardless of income level.
“All share the experience of having been detained in the facility and subjected to uniform policies that purposefully eliminate nonconformity,” Kane wrote. “The questions posed in this case are complex and novel, but the answers to those questions can be provided on a class-wide basis.”