Immigrants held at a San Diego County detention center are suing the private prison company that runs the facility, alleging exploitation and forced labor that their attorneys say breaks human trafficking laws.

The class-action lawsuit, filed Wednesday in San Diego federal court, alleges that immigrants at Otay Mesa Detention Center are paid at most $1.50 per day, and sometimes not paid at all, for their work as kitchen staff, janitors, barbers and various other roles. It further alleges that the facility doesn’t provide all of the basic necessities that detainees need for daily life, such as soap, which means they have to work in order to buy those items at the commissary.

The lawsuit also contends that facility staff have threatened to put detainees in solitary confinement or take away visitation rights if they said they didn’t want to work.

CoreCivic, the company that contracts with the government to operate the facility, said it does not comment on pending litigation and has not yet been served with the lawsuit.


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