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Immigrants being detained required to work for their keep

There are concerns that the forced labor camps of old haven't actually disappeared in this country. Instead, recent research suggests that immigrants who have been detained are required to work for their keep, for either low or even no pay. Those who may be caught up in this situation are from all areas of the country, including North Carolina, and have been sent to immigrant detention centers in various locations.

According to sources with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the work programs are legal and are believed to provide detainees with a sense of purpose as well as raise their morale. However, many of those subjected to the work requirements have a different point of view. Instead, they share experiences of being threatened with isolation and being forced to complete duties even when they felt physically unable to do so.

Most of the jobs in which the immigrants are engaged are directly related to their life in confinement, such as, cooking, cleaning and laundry chores. For their services, most are paid a "stipend" of around $1 or less. Those who are being held in local jails are frequently compensated with snack items or surplus free time. One official has said that the detainees -- many of whom have been rounded up due to clerical errors rather than violations -- are not considered prisoners, and thus, the laws that regulate how they are paid don't apply. Others have stated that they are paid according to the provisions that were established regarding compensation to inmate populations.

Advocates for immigrants argue that, due to the combined numbers of detainees in the system, the Federal government is actually the largest employer of undocumented workers. As such, many say that the government is violating its own laws by subjecting the immigrant detainees to unfair wages. North Carolina families who believe that they may have been treated unfairly or faced other types of discrimination do have resources available to them. These resources may be able to provide the information they need in order to protect their rights and ensure that they are provided with every opportunity to fair and equitable treatment guaranteed by applicable state and federal laws.

Source: The New York Times, "Using jailed migrants as a pool of cheap labor", Michael Stravato, May 24, 2014

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