A federal appeals court in Colorado has ruled that a lawsuit brought by nine immigrant detainees alleging forced labor in a detention facility can represent a class of 60,000 others who were detained at the site.
In its decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit upheld a lower court ruling that all of the immigrants held at a privately contracted U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center in the past ten years should be represented by the suit.
Geo Group, Inc., the private company contracted by ICE to operate the Colorado detention center, has repeatedly denied claims of forced labor.
The detainees allege that the company enacts a mandatory “Housing Unit Sanitation Policy” under which detainees are forced to clean for no pay “under the threat of solitary confinement as punishment for any refusal to work.”
Under a separate “Voluntary Work Program,” detainees are paid $1 a day for jobs such as painting, serving food, cutting hair, and cleaning clothes and bathrooms.
The detainees argue that the work requirements violate the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which prohibits forced labor and a Colorado state law barring “unjust enrichment.”
However, the appeals court did not specifically say if the detainees as a class will succeed with their suit when the case returns to the lower court.