$23M back pay settlement deadline for Willacy workers arrives

This woman who we'll call "Jane" is one of more than 1,700 people on edge this holiday season.

"We want our money," she said.

"Jane" says she and her husband have been waiting more than a year for nearly $40,000 owed to them in back pay from when they used to work at the former Willacy County Immigrant Detention Center in Raymondville.

"It's a big headache," she explained. "We have bills to be paid... And we could use that money to pay the debts that we have."

Willacy County Judge John Gonzales Jr. says a settlement agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement or I.C.E. stems from the years 2006-2008 when guards weren't being paid federal wages as required.

I.C.E. is supposed to repay current and former guards more than 23 million dollars in back wages and benefits by Monday at 11:59 pm.

What will happen if the agency doesn't meet the deadline?

"For one... I.C.E. has to start paying interest on that money... Secondly... They've breached their agreement and we will be on the phone tomorrow morning to do what we can to push on this," Gonzales said.

Jane says she was paid about $8.50 an hour.

She says she should have received $12 to $13 plus benefits, in all totaling about $17 an hour.

She worries I.C.E. may drag out the payments past the December 5th deadline.

Reporter: "What will happen to Christmas if you don't get the money?"

"Jane": "We hoped to have a good Christmas ... Without that money... That's out the window."

Judge Gonzales hopes it won't be the case.

He also vows to ensure workers in Willacy County won't be mistreated on the pay scale again.

"Nobody... Nobody as of Jan. 1 of this year can or will run over Willacy County again," he said.

An I.C.E. spokesperson confirmed with Action 4 News late Monday afternoon that a payment was made, although no further details about it or any other statement regarding the settlement was made.

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