‘This lawsuit is part of a nationwide effort to make the cost of detaining aliens unacceptably high, in hopes of crashing the system…’
Raising questions of Constitutional federalism, the lawsuit pits Washington state’s $11.50-per-hour minimum wage with the $1 per day wage set by Congress for aliens who decide to work at detention facilities.
Congress set the $1 per day wage for volunteer work at detention facilities so that their wages would match those of federal and state prisoners in the United States.
The Immigration Reform Law Institute said the plaintiffs in the case—namely, the State of Washington—are using this lawsuit as an attempt to cripple “the federal government’s system of detaining illegal aliens and criminal aliens.”
IRLI filed an amicus brief last Wednesday in support of the defendant, GEO Group, Inc., a private corporation that operates prisons and detention facilities.
Their petition says that Washington’s demand would violate the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause.
The Supremacy Clause gives Congress full authority to legislate matters that fall within the federal government’s jurisdiction, regardless of state laws to the contrary.
If Washington’s lawsuit prevails, then the federal government’s immigration detention facilities could suffer, as illegal alien wages would cause costs to increase.
“This lawsuit is part of a nationwide effort to make the cost of detaining aliens unacceptably high, in hopes of crashing the system,” said Dale L. Wilcox, executive director and general counsel of IRLI.
“Fortunately, it won’t succeed,” Wilcox said. “It makes no policy sense to pay detainees minimum wage when they already get free room and board, especially since they can leave detention at any time and return to their own countries.”
He said it would not make any sense, legally speaking, for the state’s minimum wage law to take precedent over an act of Congress.
“We trust the court will recognize the obvious point that federal law is supreme over state law, and affirm Congress’s authority in this area,” Wilcox concluded.