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SPLC Statement on Court’s Denial of Class Certification in Lawsuit Challenging Forced Labor in Immigrant Detention Center

ATLANTA — This week, a federal judge in Georgia denied a request by individuals previously held at the Stewart Detention Center, a privately operated immigrant detention center in Stewart County, Georgia, to proceed as a class in their lawsuit against private prison company, CoreCivic, Inc.

The plaintiffs in the case – Wilhen Hill Barrientos, et al. v. CoreCivic, Inc. – sought class certification on behalf of approximately 32,000 detained immigrants who were forced to work for as little as $1 a day cleaning, cooking and performing maintenance duties under threat of punishment, including solitary confinement and loss of basic necessities. These actions were part of a scheme to maximize CoreCivic’s profits, according to the lawsuit filed in 2018. The plaintiffs are represented by lawyers for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Project South and Perkins Coie LLP

In the ruling, the judge did not decide on the merits of the claims, noting that the plaintiffs and other individuals detained at the Stewart Detention Center may have individual forced labor and unjust enrichment claims.

We are disappointed in this decision and extremely proud of the plaintiffs in this case who bravely came forward to expose the atrocious conditions in Stewart Detention Center’s work program,” said Meredith Stewart, attorney for the SPLC’s Immigrant Justice Project. “Our fight to end CoreCivic’s coercive practices will continue, as we explore all available options to seek justice for the harms our clients suffered. And we call on the Biden administration to enforce anti-trafficking laws against federal contractors operating ICE detention centers, where, as is the case here, the weight of the evidence raises serious questions about CoreCivic’s compliance.”

Read more about the case and view other filings here

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