Washington sues operator of immigration detention center

SEATTLE (AP) — Washington state has sued the operator of one of the largest immigration detention centers in the United States, claiming it did not pay detainees the state’s minimum wage for work performed over a decade.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed the lawsuit Wednesday against The GEO Group, which owns and operates the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma on contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Ferguson says that since at least 2005, GEO used immigration detainees to cook, do laundry and perform other non-security work but paid thousands of workers only $1 per day.

GEO denied the allegations as baseless and meritless. The company said in an emailed statement that it intends to vigorously defend itself. GEO says the volunteer work program and minimum wages rates are set by the federal government.

The state wants the court to order GEO to comply with Washington’s minimum wage laws.

The lawsuit was filed in Pierce County Superior Court.