Private prisons for immigrants rake in millions a year by paying pennies an hour.

By Thomas Ferraro, In These Times

On Jan. 22018, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights wrote Congress, imploring it to investigate suspected labor abuse at immigrant detention centers. The independent, bipartisan federal agency cited detainee complaints of being pressured to clean and maintain facilities for $1 a day — a pay rate that allows private prisons to hold down their costs and boost their profits.

Sign for privately owned Core Civic Detention Center in Otay Mesa, where San Diego County's illegal immigrants are held as they go through the legal process.

The commission is concerned with the added pressure to coerce detainees to perform necessary labor in order to maximize profits,” it warned, asking Congress to hold a hearing on the allegations and require detention centers to start paying detainees ​a fair wage.”

Four years later, Congress has yet to hold the hearing. And the $1‑a-day pay persists, which has enabled some prison companies to save tens of millions a year over what they would otherwise have to pay outside workers.

We didn’t get here by chance,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D‑Mass.) in 2019. ​Washington works hand-in-hand with private prison companies, who spend millions on lobbyists, campaign contributions and revolving-door hires — all to turn our criminal and immigration policies into ones that prioritize making them rich instead of keeping us safe.” Warren has called for greater scrutiny of the $1‑a-day program and the elimination of private prisons.

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