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Men who were caught crossing the U.S. border. Photo: Spencer Platt / Getty

18 Republican lawmakers have sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the acting director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Labor calling on them to help one of the largest private prison companies, GEO Group, fight a lawsuit alleging that these private prisons force labor on undocumented immigrant prisoners for $1 a day or less, the Daily Beast's Betsy Woodruff reports.

Notable: GEO Group has already given roughly a quarter of a million dollars to Republican members of Congress in the 2018 cycle.

  • The congressmen argue in the letter that undocumented immigrants should not be able to sue prison companies because they aren’t employees there, and claim forced labor saves the government money and improves prisoners' morale.
  • The letter was signed by Lamar Smith, Jody Hice, Matt Gaetz, Steve King, Mike Rogers, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs, Louie Gohmert, Dana Rohrabacher, Paul Cook, Scott Taylor, Earl “Buddy” Carter, John Ratcliffe, Duncan Hunter, Bob Gibbs, Barry Loudermilk, Brian Babin, and John Rutherford.

GEO group response: Spokesman Pablo Paez pushed back, pointing to the fact that the Obama Administration established standards for Voluntary Work Programs at all ICE detention centers and that the wage rates are set by the federal government, not private companies.

  • "GEO is required to abide by these federally mandated standards and congressionally established guidelines," he told Axios, "GEO has consistently, strongly refuted the allegations made in these lawsuits, and we intend to vigorously defend our company against these baseless claims."

Go deeper

Updated 16 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Inauguration Day dashboard

U.S. Capitol and stage are lit at sunrise ahead of the inauguration of Joe Biden. Photo: Patrick Semansky - Pool/Getty Images

President Biden has delivered his inaugural address at the Capitol, calling for an end to the politics as total war but warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country.

What's next: Biden, Harris and nearly all the living former presidents and their spouses lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery.

Inaugural address: Biden vows to be "a president for all Americans"

Moments after taking the oath of office, President Biden sought to soothe a nation riven by political divisions and a global pandemic, while warning that "we have far to go" to heal the country and defeat a "virus that silently stalks the the country."

Why it matters: From the same steps that a pro-Trump mob launched an assault on Congress two weeks earlier, the new president paid deference to the endurance of American political institutions.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: The Biden and Harris inauguration

Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated as president and vice president respectively in a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday morning.

Why it matters: Top Democrats and Republicans gathered for the peaceful transfer of power only two weeks after an unprecedented siege on the building by Trump supporters to disrupt certification of Biden's victory. Trump did not attend Wednesday's ceremony.