Political commentator and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza has a view of America that most native citizens cannot easily relate to. Born in India, he often extols the virtues of the country that adopted him and enabled his success.
In one story, D’Souza asked a friend in Mumbai why he was trying so hard to relocate to America. His friend’s response? “I really want to move to a country where the poor people are fat.”
Citizens of the world can be forgiven for seeing America as a land of luxury. Apparently that extends to illegal aliens, as one recently filed a lawsuit in part because the accommodations at government detention facilities are not on par with those at the Ritz-Carlton.
In a case underway in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, an illegal alien named Martha Gonzalez is suing a federal government contractor that administers several immigration detention facilities, including the one in Texas she calls home. Gonzalez claims that, by requiring detainees to clean up their own living quarters and allowing them to do low-paying work in the facility, the contractor is running illegal slave camps in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.
Before the establishment media clutches their pearls in horror, some context is sorely needed here. In its brief in the case, attorneys for the Immigration Reform Law Institute (IRLI) explained how the plaintiff’s argument is beyond absurd.
Alien detainees are free to leave these facilities whenever they want. In many cases, federal law allows criminal aliens to return to their home countries instead of waiting in detention while their immigration claims proceed.
Why would they stay? Maybe because they know that, with an overwhelmed immigration system and a vocal anti-borders movement advocating for them, they are willing to “wait it out” in the hope of winning legal status. So the idea that they are being held against their will is a farce.
Gonzalez is trying to make her case a class action on behalf of a large group of aliens also subject to the requirement that they clean their own spaces. The class also would include aliens who volunteer to work elsewhere in their detention facilities for $1 per day.
The alternative to having detainees clean up their personal space is for taxpayer-funded personal cleaning services to do it, essentially maid service. This is a luxury not enjoyed by anyone else in detention in the U.S.
Proverbial bomb-throwing activists like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have likened immigration detention facilities to concentration camps. Apparently anything less than turndown service and a mint on the pillow now constitutes a crime against humanity.
The plaintiff also claims that paying the detainees $1 per day for work is outrageous and constitutes slave labor. As anyone who has been in the correctional system or even seen it in documentaries can attest, inmates are paid extremely low wages for menial work done in the facility.
Is that “fair?” From a living wage perspective, maybe not (but then again, inmates do get free room and board). In any case, low pay is part and parcel of the detainment experience for people who have committed acts like homicide, tax evasion, or illegally entering a country. One dollar is actually in line with detainee compensation throughout the country. Inmates at state correctional facilities in Indiana, for comparison’s sake, are paid 25 cents per hour.
Equally important is that the purportedly cruel buck-a-day pay rate was expressly determined not by the contractor, but by the duly elected members of the U.S. Congress. That’s right, the same politicians who make a grand spectacle in televised hearings screaming at members of immigration enforcement for carrying out laws that they themselves voted for.
The contractor is simply complying with the terms of the contract it signed with Congress. If our ruling class on Capitol Hill has a problem with that, perhaps they should schedule a vote to increase the pay rate for illegal aliens in detention and fund cleaning services for their personal spaces.
Don’t expect such a vote any time soon, as it could be a liability for anyone seeking re-election next year. Most Americans can’t afford to stay in a five-star hotel. They might have a problem with paying for illegal aliens to do it.
Brian Lonergan is director of communications at the Immigration Reform Law Institute, a public interest law firm working to defend the rights and interests of the American people from the negative effects of illegal migration.