Republican lawmakers support forced labor for imprisoned immigrants

men sit on the floor behind chain link fence
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."