Ending Forced Labor in ICE Detention Centers: A New Approach
Written By: Jonathon Booth
Privately managed detention centers hold the majority of detained immigrants in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) custody. Coerced detainee labor in these for-profit facilities is commonplace. The practice contributes significantly to the financial viability of CoreCivic and GEO Group, the two corporations which manage most ICE detention centers, but it violates the prohibition on forced labor contained in the 2000 Trafficking Victims Protection Act (“TVPA”).
Despite a growing field of scholarship on “crimmigration” and proposals to abolish immigration detention, few scholars have examined the centrality of forced labor to immigration detention. Instead, most scholarly analyses of the TVPA have focused on its impact on labor trafficking, sex trafficking, or on its extraterritorial application. Because practitioners, rather than scholars, were the first to recognize that the TVPA’s prohibition of forced labor applies to private detention centers, there has been little scholarly analysis of the application of the TVPA to forced labor within detention facilities.
This Article provides the first scholarly assessment of a wave of pending class action lawsuits challenging forced labor in privately managed ICE facilities under the TVPA. It concludes that such lawsuits are likely to succeed, given the facts known about conditions in for-profit immigrant detention facilities and the broad text and favorable legislative history of the TVPA. If the plaintiffs win a favorable jury verdict or a far-reaching settlement, the cases may cause fundamental changes to the current system of mass immigration detention.
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