August 13, 2018

CNN: Senators ask DHS to crack down on alleged coerced labor in immigrant detention centers

Six US senators are asking the Department of Homeland Security to take immediate steps to ensure private-prison operators aren't using forced labor at immigrant detention centers, after allegations that detainees feel coerced to work for $1 per day or less to get sufficient food and basic services.

Citing reporting last month by CNN, the senators -- five Democrats and one Independent -- sent a letter to DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen raising concerns about privately run detention centers' operation of what is supposed to be a voluntary federal work program for detainees. They expressed concern about the facilities "withholding adequate food, hygienic supplies, and contact with loved ones from immigrant detainees. When detainees are unable to receive outside funds to purchase supplies, they feel coerced into volunteering to participate in work programs. This includes performing tasks such as mopping, sweeping, waxing floors, scrubbing toilets and showers, washing dishes, doing laundry, cleaning medical facilities, cutting hair, and preparing meals."

The August 13 letter also cited a lawsuit alleging that detainees who objected to volunteering "subsequently faced punishments such as segregation, solitary confinement, threat of physical harm, and referral for criminal prosecution."

The letter was signed by senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

Read the full story on the CNN website here.

By:  Bob Ortega
Source: CNN