In an egregious infraction of justice, immigrant detainees in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, may have been exploited for their labor. Now, one of the immigrant detainees, 40-year-old Anthony Whyte, is filing a class action lawsuit against Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department which states that he and other detainees should have been paid minimum wage for their labor over the past six years.
Whyte and Other Detainees Paid $1 Per Day
The voluntary work program that detainees like Whyte–who is fighting deportation to Jamaica–and other detainees have participated in, making at little as one dollar a day, was developed to reduce disorder and improve morale. However, lawyers for Whyte state that the program is for those who are facing criminal charges. Whyte and other detainees are not facing criminal charges, but are facing civil charges instead. As such, their lawyers argue that they should receive the minimum wage, and are seeking four million dollars in unpaid wages over the past half decade. The tasks for which the detainees are receiving one dollar per day include mopping floors, emptying the trash, and handing out food trays during meals.
Problem Not Confined to Boston Area
Unfortunately, the problem of using immigrant detainees as a source of cheap labor isn’t one that’s occurring in the Boston area alone; instead, claims of exploitation have been made in multiple cities across the U.S. In fact, approximately 5,500 detained immigrants work in immigrant detention centers across the nation everyday, with many of them receiving wages no more than one dollar an hour, or receiving no compensation for their work at all.
Is the volunteer work program legal?
Those on the other side of the fence, so to speak, that say paying a dollar a day is perfectly legal, argue–truthfully–that the work is entirely volunteer-based; no one has to work if they don’t want to. However, immigrant right activists question the legality of the volunteer work programs, stating that the government is essentially hiring undocumented immigrants and then using them for labor sans pay.
Contact an Immigration Attorney if Your Right to a Minimum Wage is Being Denied
If you’re currently being held in an immigration detention center and have been denied the right to a minimum wage, you need to contact an immigration attorney as soon as possible. At Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, we can help to make sure that your rights as an immigrant being detained are represented. We can also provide you with more information, as well as representation, in regards to deportation and immigrant status. Speak with us today.