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Immigrants seek more than $5 million in damages from the GEO Group

A lawsuit representing about 62,000 people held in an immigration detention center and forced to do manual labor while they awaited possible deportation can proceed the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled.

The GEO Group, which operates the 1,500-bed ICE detention facility in Aurora, tried to have the lawsuit dismissed. GEO Group argued the U.S. District Court in Denver abused its discretion in certifying the class action lawsuit. The appeals court disagreed.

The lawsuit, which was originally filed in 2014 on behalf of nine individually named plaintiffs, seeks more than $5 million in damages for as many as 62,000 detainees who performed sanitation chores like cleaning toilets without pay over the past decade.

The lawsuit also accuses GEO, which runs numerous detention facilities and prisons across the U.S., of unfair enrichment at the expense of 2,000 detainees paid $1 a day for work such as preparing food and doing laundry during the past three years.

GEO previously has said its work program is voluntary and that it employs several full-time, on-site contract monitors to ensure compliance with ICE guidelines.

“I think the most important message we get from the Tenth Circuit is that the detainees who brought this case, and who were forced to work under the threat of solitary confinement, and who were paid a dollar a day for their labor, have strong claims,” said Boulder attorney Brandt Milstein, one of several attorneys representing the plaintiffs.

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