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Sikhurity contractor sues ICE

October 20, 2009 - 2:02 pm

AkalForceSince 2003, federal private security megacontractor Akal Security has run operations at the El Centro Service Processing Center, the way station/detention facility for San Diego immigrants awaiting deportation.

As of Oct. 14, Akal is suing U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (pdf) for not allowing ICE personnel to testify in an Imperial County Superior Court case, in which Akal, in turn, is being sued by its employees for violating California labor laws. Akal contends that it doesn’t need to adhere to California laws on meal periods, rest breaks and overtime because it’s a federal contractor.

The reason this blipped on my radar is that in my previous gig—staff writer at the Santa Fe Reporter in New Mexico—I covered problems in the regulation of private security companies. Gurutej Khalsa, Akal’s founder, was a major contributor to Gov. Bill Richardson’s campaign, which may explain why the company picked up numerous security contracts (including the lucrative State Fair) and was appointed to the board that oversees private patrol operators. In essence, Khalsa was tapped to regulate his own company.

Now, you’re thinking, “Gurutej Khalsa, that’s a weird name.” Allow me to explain: Khalsa is the last name assumed by all members of the Sikh faith. But Gurutej ain’t from India: He’s one of the bearded, turban-ed Sikh Dharma members who populate Espanola, a gritty town north of Santa Fe (unrelatedly known as the “Low Rider Capital of the World“). Many experts—including the esteemed Scientology-battler Rick Ross—classify the group, which is largely white and lives in a compound, as a cult.

These days, Akal is one of the largest security contractors in the country. According to USASpending.gov, Akal holds 743 federal contracts totaling more than $318 million in 2009 alone. Akal’s ICE contracts represent approximately $96 million.

Now, considering all that treasure and considering that the Rehat Maryada code (at least according to the Sikh equivalent of Wikipedia) states “One’s profession, work or course of study must be honest work done with honesty and integrity,” you’d figure they could hook a worker up with a proper lunch break.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 22, 2009 - 12:22 pm 12:22 pm

    Why is it that the government can’t find a contractor with at least a modicum of respectability??
    I understand that there are going to be times when we (the tax payers) are going to be ripped off, particularly in war time, etc…
    But jumping Jesus on a pogo stick, is it really that hard to just find someone that is NOT 100 percent scumbag??

  2. mr. mike permalink
    October 25, 2009 - 2:20 am 2:20 am

    In private security it’s hard to find “truly respectable” companies because so many of these firms exist to be purchased by the larger players in the industry: Pinkerton bought up many of the bigger firms (Wells Fargo, California Plant Protection, etc.) and then was swallowed up by Securitas, a Swedish firm. Their workforces have high turn-over rates and the pay is pretty low, so morale is nearly non-existent (except for the armed guards, who are paid better, but unarmed guards far outnumber armed guards.) The only thing interesting about Akal Security is the odd Sikh cultist angle, but yes, many security firms have guards working 14-hour days or every day of the week, but these are “flex guards” who are paid more for having that sort of work schedule. Meal times are pretty loose for regular security; if you can spare a half hour you can get a lunch or dinner, it matters what sort of site you are at. Every site is different: a hospital would have set times for meals and bathroom breaks, but a strip mall where you work out of your car is eat/go to the bathroom whenever you want.

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