In the United States there is a horrendous exploitation that has been taken place upon migrants, in which migrants are made to be put through detention centers where they work for $1 a day, or at times for no money at all, all so that private prison systems can make maximum profits. They say slavery was banished in the United States. Think again.
Migrants work cleaning the facilities, doing laundry and doing construction work to expand the size of the facilities. There was the case of Mbah Emmanuel Abi and Desmond Ndambi who were working for a dollar a day at the Cibola County Correctional Center which is operated by CoreCivic, one of the two biggest private prison corporations in the US (the other is GEO Group). Ndambi worked as a janitor for three hours a day, seven days a week, and then as the facility’s librarian for eight hours a day, five days a week. He was usually paid a dollar a day, and in several occasions the facility did not pay him at all. Ndambi would use his pay to buy basic hygiene necessities for which money was deducted to his account. When he was released from the detention center, the remainder of his account was paid to him. Abi worked as a cook in the facility for six hours a day, at least five days a week, for only 50 cents an hour (around $15 a week). Abi and Ndambi eventually launched a lawsuit against the Cibola Country Correctional Center, making them the first immigrants to sue a private prison.
In the document, Ndambi v. CoreCivic, Inc., it reads that while CoreCivic relied heavily on migrant labor which it pays little for, it also hires locals living in the area around the facility. While the migrants were paid slave wages, by law non-detainee workers have to be paid in accordance to minimum wage standards:
“CoreCivic owns and operates Cibola, a prison complex that has faced several recent scandals for mistreatment and inadequate care of prisoners and civilly detained immigrants. CoreCivic profits from its operation of Cibola by relying heavily on a captive workforce of civilly detained immigrants, including Plaintiffs_, to perform labor necessary to keep Cibola operational and provide the services it is obligated to provide under the terms of its contract with Cibola County, New Mexico. The work includes tasks such as preparing and serving meals, cleaning the facilities, performing other janitorial tasks, performing laundry services, and operating the library and the barber shop. CoreCivic sometimes hires non-detainees who live in the surrounding community to perform the same work. If Plaintiffs did not perform this Work, CoreCivic would have to hire more people from the surrounding community to keep Cibola operational and pay those additional workers the legally mandated wages, which would be substantially higher than the wages actually paid to Plaintiffs. … Despite the importance and necessity of Plaintiffs’ work to CoreCivic’s business, CoreCivic has always paid them less than the legally required wage for their work, and sometimes as little as one dollar per day.”
The American Right thinks its great that migrants are detained in these facilities, and when mistreatment is mentioned, they simply reply with something to the likes of: ‘They should have thought of that before entering the country illegally.’ In other words, God-given rights to a fair wage is thrown out and replaced with their perspective on the Constitution, and thus God-given rights are deprived of constitutional rights in this particularly warped mentality. But these same people who express outrage against migrants are also those who complain about how migrants get low wages and thus lower down the cost of labor. But, these very private prison systems who contract with ICE to hold migrants in their facilities are paying these same workers slave wages (as opposed to hiring American citizens to do the maintenance and construction for the detention facilities), and yet we don’t hear the Right-wing claptrap complaining about this, because it involves migrants being imprisoned and given slave pay. These aren’t isolated incidences. The same document states that “there are hundreds of similarly situated current and former civilly detained immigrants at Cibola who have been subjected to the same unlawful conduct that the Plaintiffs challenge herein.” One man even died as he was using a jackhammer and it hit an electrical wire, as we read from the New York Times:
Workers in immigration custody have suffered injuries and even died. In 2007, Cesar Gonzalez was killed in a facility in Los Angeles County when his jackhammer hit an electrical cable, sending 10,000 volts of direct current through his body. He was on a crew digging holes for posts to extend the camp’s perimeter.
The migrants who are detained in these facilities are those who have not been charged with any criminal violations. These particular migrants are kept in these facilities for the purpose of making sure that they stay in the US during their immigration process or that they are available for deportation if they are not eligible to remain within the country. Migrants who are allowed to stay in the US have permission to work. These are what have been called “civilly detained immigrants.” Thus, the migrants who are allowed to work legally within the detention facilities are owed a fair pay. In the words of Ndambi v. CoreCivic, Inc.:
“Civil immigration detention is not punitive or corrective, it does not reflect a determination that detained immigrants have violated any laws of the United States, and it does not determine the outcome of their immigration cases. By law, civil detainees are the sole owners of the labor they provide.”
In the case of the detainees within the Cibola detention facility, they were paid a dollar a day or at times nothing at all. “On some occasions,” writes Ndambi v. CoreCivic, “Plaintiffs and those similarly situated were not paid at all for their work. ln all cases, Plaintiffs and those similarly situated were paid less than the minimum wage required”.
In 2017 there was the case of Shoaib Ahmed, a 24 year old Bangladeshi immigrant who was detained in the Stewart Detention Center in the state of Georgia where he was put through slave labor. The Stewart immigration center is ran by CoreCivic, and not surprisingly, he was working for 50 cents an hour and was eventually owed a $20 check for his labor. When his check wasn’t given to him, Ahmed got upset and told the other workers that they shouldn’t work. As punishment, Ahmed was made to endure solitary confinement for ten days. The Stewart detention center gives inadequate food to detainees, according to one report. One Mexican migrant said that he believed that the reason why such little food is given to detainees is to compel them to buy food from the center:
“I believe the reason why the facility gives the detainees so little food is so we will have to buy food from the commissary. Everything in the commissary is expensive. I spend $80/week, $320/month, in the commissary.”
In fact, conditions in Stewart have been known to be so poor that mortality data from ICE states that detainees are about 47 times more likely to die at the Stewart Detention Center than in ICE detention in general. Wilhen Hill Barrientos, a detainee in a privately ran detention center, said in a lawsuit against CoreCivic that you “either work for a few cents an hour or live without basic things like soap, shampoo, deodorant and food”.
CoreCivic is not the only biggest private prison corporation. The other is GEO Group, and it also is involved in slave labor, paying workers lower than minimum wage. Duglas Cruz, a migrant from Honduras who fled his country after gangs tried to recruit him and he refused to join, was one detainee at the Adelanto facility ran by GEO. The food given to prisoners were not enough to satisfy hunger, and so Cruz decided to work in the facility’s kitchen to buy extra food. But he was only given $1 a day, and this wasn’t enough to buy simple food products. For example, a can of tuna was sold for $3.25, more expansive than the average cheap can of tuna you get at the grocery store. A stick of deodorant? $3.35, more than three days wages at the migrant facility. “If I bought that there wouldn’t be enough money for food,” Cruz recounted. The strategy behind this is to maximize their profits.
There was a lawsuit that was done by the state of Washington in 2017 against GEO Group over the horrendously low pay it was giving to migrant workers for their labor in the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma. The lawsuit was filed by the Attorney General of Washington, Bob Ferguson, and it got GEO to come up with reasons to have it blocked. For example, GEO accused the Attorney General of “bad faith” and stated that “The Attorney General’s claims are politically motivated”. But, in May of 2019 the U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan backed the Attorney General to have the “affirmative defenses” of GEO blocked. According to a 2019 report from the Seattle Times, the judge pointed out that “the state has known of the $1-a-day practice since at least 2014”.
The Obama administration tried to reduce the government’s use of private prisons. The Trump administration has put in efforts to reverse this policy and give more leeway to private prison corporations. The day after the 2016 election, the value of the stock rose significantly, with CoreCivic’s stock going up to 43% and Geo Group’s increased 21%.
This is profiteering through exploitation of migrants. “You must not exploit or oppress a foreign resident, for you yourselves were foreigners in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 22:21) Jesus’ struggle was a struggle between an established national law and God-given law. The Jewish elites broke divine law when they exploited worshippers in the Court of the Gentiles by making people who wanted to worship God in the Temple exchange their Roman coins with a Temple currency. Currency manipulation was the means by which to exploit people, and what did Christ do? He did not tolerate such evil, but rather He took a whip and drove the thieves from the Temple which was meant to be a house of prayer for all the peoples (Isaiah 56:7), and drove the thieves who prostituted the holy place out. Christ was a Warrior for liberation against the sinister system of exploitation which sought to take advantage of people; He did not tolerate such wicked actions, but yet, with vibrant and ardent zeal and an endless love for humanity, used the physical force of a whip to instill in the hearts of the enemies of everything holy and sacred, and drove out such evildoers.
The rights given by God surpass national law and are thus international, and should not be rejected merely because a person’s status is ‘non-citizen.’ Humans are more valuable than a status written on a piece of paper; a person’s humanity should not be determined by what a piece of paper says. Fellow members of the family of humanity need not be victim to the ravenous hands of private corporations, merely because a stamp of approval has not yet been bestowed to them. The struggle of Christ is not for the praise of some border wall, but for vanquishing of evil and for the advancement of good, and that good entails not the exploitation of people for maximum profits, but the harmony of the human family, and not the justification of slavery and using people like tools for money for the cause of some national identity.
Now, I must ask the question: if such private corporations are willing to exploit people because they are non-citizens, imagine what they would do to citizens if they could get away with it. Put away your delusional mentality of ‘well we are citizens and they are non-citizens and they should have thought about this before coming here illegally,’ and think for a moment here. The reason why these corporations take advantage of these migrants is because they are not citizens and thus their universal rights are not seen as protected by the American constitution. Thus, they mistreat these people because they can, because they can get away with it. Now, imagine if they could get away with exploiting American citizens, and get away with it. What would happen if some major terrorist attack occurred in the US and the government declared a national emergency and certain citizens were deemed not American enough? Remember that the 13th Amendment says:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
And what if people are deemed as ‘criminals’ for being political dissent against despotism? Such people could be forced to slavery or even work camps and people would be indifferent because they have been given the label of ‘criminal.’
Such people would be made to suffer through being forced to be imprisoned as the masses deem them as ‘enemies’ of the state. This is why excessive nationalism is dangerous. It makes you into a robot that just follows and accepts, never questioning what evils may be being done under the banner of your flag.