WJCNY Sues Akima Global Services for Labor Violations at Buffalo Federal Detention Center

WJCNY has filed suit in New York’s Supreme Court against the private, for-profit company, Akima Global Services (AGS), for its exploitation of detained immigrants at the Buffalo Federal Detention Center in Batavia, NY. Plaintiffs Bounam Phimasone and Dalila Yeend allege that, while detained, they were hired by AGS to perform manual labor in the facility. Instead of wages, AGS paid Mr. Phimasone and Ms. Yeend $1 per day in commissary credit, regardless of hours worked.

The lawsuit, filed on Thursday afternoon, alleges that AGS’s practice of crediting detainees one dollar per day for many hours of labor violates the New York State Constitution and various provisions of the Labor Law, including minimum wage. It also alleges that AGS unjustly enriched itself through this exploitative practice. AGS contracts with the federal government to operate the Buffalo Federal Detention Center and is paid a daily rate for each bed filled per day. By requiring detainee-employees to perform essential functions at well below the legal minimum wage, AGS avoids hiring non-detained employees to work for fair market wages, thereby depressing the local economy and increasing its own profits.

The Times Union published a front page story on the litigation, quoting WJCNY Legal Director, Rob McCreanor: 

“When we look at this particular situation in Batavia, what stands out is that this is a private company that is contracting with the federal government and is making a lot of money off that contract. That is in part due to the free labor that they are getting from immigrants in civil detentions that aren’t prisoners serving terms for crimes — they are immigrants who are detained waiting a resolution for a civil immigration matter. It’s a gross violation of their rights.”

Read the full Times Union article, 'Borders on slavery': Suit claims labor violations at Batavia immigration facility, and see our full press release on the case here

We extend a special thank you to Borealis Philanthropy for supporting our work on this case through their Immigration Litigation Fund.