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4 Mär 2020

The United States Court of Appeals

Judgment in Barrientos, Velasquez-Galicia, Ahmed v. CoreCivic Inc.

In the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit BARRIENTOS, VELAZQUEZ-GALICIA, AHMED v CORECIVIC, INC., 28 Feb 2020

"In this case, Appellees Wilhen Hill Barrientos, Margarito Velazquez-Galicia, and Shoaib Ahmed, current and former alien detainees, brought a class action lawsuit against Appellant CoreCivic, Inc., a private contractor, which owns and operates the Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia (“Stewart”). Stewart is a federal immigration detention facility where aliens are held during the pendency of removal proceedings or for other reasons related to enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws. At Stewart, CoreCivic, as a private contractor, is required to operate what is referred to as a “voluntary work program,” through which detainees may perform work for compensation...

Appellees’ complaint alleged that, far from operating a “voluntary” work program, CoreCivic coerces alien detainees to perform labor at Stewart by, inter alia, the use or threatened use of serious harm, criminal prosecution, solitary confinement, and the withholding of basic necessities. Appellees’ complaint asserted that CoreCivic’s labor scheme violated, and continues to violate, the forced-labor prohibition in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (“TVPA”), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1589, 1594–95, and Georgia law... 


After review, and with the benefit of oral argument, we conclude that:
(1) under the plain language of the statute, the TVPA covers the conduct of private contractors operating federal immigration detention facilities; (2) the TVPA does not bar private contractors from operating the sort of voluntary work programs generally authorized under federal law for aliens held in immigration detention facilities; but (3) private contractors that operate such work programs are not categorically excluded from the TVPA and may be liable if they knowingly obtain or procure the labor or services of a program participant through the illegal coercive means explicitly listed in the TVPA. Because our review is limited to the legal question of the TVPA’s applicability to private contractors operating federal immigration detention facilities, we do not at this time address whether the factual allegations in the complaint are sufficient to state a TVPA claim."...

In summary, this is a step forward in the chase for corporate accountability in the US; the 11th Circuit held that the Trafficking Victims Protection Act does apply to federal contractors operating federal detention facilities i.e. private, company owned prisons as opposed to government run prisons.