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Eleventh Circuit Rules Federal Anti-Trafficking Law Can Apply to Private Immigrant Detention Corporations

ATLANTA – The U.S Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit today affirmed the denial of CoreCivic’s motion to dismiss a complaint, filed on behalf of a class of immigrants forced to work while detained at Stewart Detention Center. With this order, the Eleventh Circuit becomes the first court of appeals to hold that private for-profit contractors operating work programs in immigration detention facilities can be held liable for breaking the federal law prohibiting forced labor.  

Meredith Stewart, senior supervising attorney for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s (SPLC) Immigrant Justice Project, issued the following statement:  

“The Court affirmed today that private detention companies like CoreCivic can be held to account for operating exploitative forced labor schemes. CoreCivic has profited immensely at the expense of detained immigrants deprived of basics like food and hygiene products. CoreCivic has forced the immigrants detained at Stewart Detention Center to work for next to nothing for access to these necessities, all the while threatening them with solitary confinement if they refuse to work. We look forward to proving that CoreCivic’s scheme violates the Trafficking Victims Protection Act and putting an end to this appalling practice.”  

Azadeh Shahshahani, Legal & Advocacy Director at Project South, issued the following statement: 

"We are glad that the court has allowed the private prison corporation CoreCivic to be held accountable for forcing detained immigrants to labor at Stewart. It is time to put an end to this abusive profit-making operation and uphold the human rights of immigrants."
View the full opinion here.  

The case was originally filed on April 17, 2018 by Project South, R. Andrew Free, SPLC, and Burns Charest LLP. Read more about the case here.