Vicky Arias, FISM News
The Department of Labor (DOL) announced on Monday a plan to combat child labor exploitation following a New York Times investigation uncovering an explosion of migrant child labor since 2021.
The DOL, citing a 69% increase in illegal child labor since 2018, is presently investigating 600 claims of child labor violations and has discovered that during the fiscal year 2022, “835 companies … had employed more than 3,800 children in violation of labor laws.”
According to a White House press briefing on Monday, the DOL will partner with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) “to create a new interagency task force to combat child exploitation, … increase scrutiny of companies that do … business with employers who violate child labor laws, mandate follow-up calls for unaccompanied migrant children who report safety concerns to the HHS hotline, and audit the sponsor vetting process for unaccompanied migrant children over the next four weeks.”
UNACCOMPANIED MIGRANTS BECOMING CHILD LABORERS
The plight of children being exploited for cheap or free labor has been experienced by unknown numbers of unaccompanied migrant children entering the country with little to no protection from predatory actors.
Unaccompanied children coming to the United States soared from 8,777 children in January 2022 to 9,393 children in January 2023, an increase of 616 children. These children are part of an ongoing border crisis that’s been developing since President Joe Biden took office.
According to PBS, “the administration has struggled with how to respond to a surge of migrants, including children who travel alone, at the U.S. border since Biden first took office. In the fiscal year that ended last September, migrants were stopped 2.38 million times, up 37% from 1.73 million times the year before. The total was more than twice the highest level during Donald Trump’s presidency in 2019.”
Many on the left criticized the amount of time migrant children spent in federal holding facilities as they awaited processing and proper placement, prompting the Biden administration to reportedly have the children swiftly transferred out of those facilities. These rushed actions may have involved cutting corners on the vetting process for those who would become guardians of the minors.
According to the New York Times, “a spokesman for Speaker Kevin McCarthy [R-Calif.] said Xavier Becerra, the secretary of health and human services, ‘cut corners on vetting procedures to prioritize the expedited release of minors, and as a result more migrant children are being handed off to traffickers and exploited.’”
Becerra has been under fire since comments he made that likened children being processed through immigration facilities to an assembly line that needs to work faster.
Hannah Dreier, an investigative reporter for the New York Times, posted a video snippet of the comments on Twitter.
“If Henry Ford had seen this in his plants, he would have never become famous and rich,” Becerra said last summer. “This is not the way you do an assembly line. And kids aren’t widgets, I get it, but we can do far better than this.”