Although illegal immigrants living in detention centers are not legally allowed to have jobs in the United States, they are being put to work and earning far less than minimum wage, according to Truthout.
Under the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Voluntary Work Program, the immigrants detained in the facilities are not technically employees, as workers need to volunteer for the jobs and are paid a small wage. Individuals are detained by the Department of Homeland Security in the facilities for a range of immigration issues, including an expired green card, or being in the country illegally without the proper U.S. visa.
When imprisoned in a detention facility, several studies have found that individuals will often succumb to many types of exploitation to make money. Many detainees will work long hours for little pay because they need to pay for extra food and telephone cards in the prison store, according to Azadeh Shashahani, director of the National Security and Immigrants Rights Project at the ACLU of Georgia, as quoted by Truthout.
“On the one hand, they say we must deport these people because they are taking away the jobs of Americans,” Jacqueline Stevens, a professor at Northwestern University, said, according to a recent article from Efe. “But on the other hand the employment of the people who are detained under conditions of near slavery is being subsidized.”
Most of the jobs completed by detained immigrants include doing manual labor for companies like the Corrections Corporation of America, which often provides individuals with a pay rate between one and three dollars a day.
“People who are being detained only while they await an immigration court audience and not for punitive reasons are being forced to work for a dollar a day and this not only seems to violate the minimum wage laws, but also the 13th Amendment against slavery,” Stevens said.