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Firms Hired AZ Inmates With ICE Detainers Despite State Law

Despite an Arizona law that requires private companies to verify that their employees are legally able to work in the U.S., a handful of companies have exploited a loophole by hiring prisoners with ICE detainers who would otherwise be ineligible to work in the U.S., the Arizona Republic reports. At least 18 people who have the detainers, which means they can be turned over to immigration officials and deported, were involved in jobs including packaging salads for a large fresh food processor, building trusses and frames for homes for a construction company and working for lead-generating telecommunications companies. Those jobs paid at least $4.75 an hour, far below the federal or state minimum wage. Among the companies that used unauthorized migrant labor were Hickman’s Egg Farms, Taylor Farms, NatureSweet and Televerde.

Lori Sweet of NatureSweet said the company was unaware of the state using unauthorized workers and terminated its contract with the state in 2016. None of the other companies would comment. Another eight people classified with ICE detainers who worked directly for Arizona Correctional Industries, a for-profit business run by the Department of Corrections. ACI uses prisoners and pays them sub-minimum wages to do forced labor for companies. Typically, those who are not legally allowed to work — those on tourist visas or who crossed the border illegally — are eligible for deportation. Using prisoners as labor is a common practice for most states that aim to curb taxpayer spending on state-produced goods. The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry has used at least 15,700 “Mexican nationals” as hired hands over the past 15 years. Among those who have ICE detainers, the 26 who worked for private companies are just a tiny sliver of the number of imprisoned unauthorized migrants who are exploited by the state as a source of cheap labor. More than 10,000 people with ICE detainers are forced to work inside Arizona’s public and privately owned correctional facilities.

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