In early March 2023, it was revealed by the NYTimes that migrant children have been working in dangerous and lethal jobs in large corporations across the US. The investigation by the publication is in-depth, harrowing, and completely proof of how little the US cares for effects of its own imperialism.
The NYTimes says, “Migrant child labor benefits both under-the-table operations and global corporations, The Times found. In Los Angeles, children stitch “Made in America” tags into J. Crew shirts. They bake dinner rolls sold at Walmart and Target, process milk used in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and help debone chicken sold at Whole Foods. As recently as the fall, middle-schoolers made Fruit of the Loom socks in Alabama. In Michigan, children make auto parts used by Ford and General Motors.”
The investigation asserts that the children working in these conditions are not unknown to the government, but rather, that the Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for ensuring that “sponsors” will support and protect the children from exploitation. The agency has reportedly lost contact with a third of all migrant children who arrive to America. Alone in America, these children are then responsible for sending money back home, which sponsors and authorities are aware of. This creates a circular effect – the children are desperate for cash, and sponsors desperate for money made off of exploitation, anything to line their pockets.
The NYTimes further reports that in interviews with 60 caseworkers, most asserted that two-thirds of unaccompanied migrant children end up working full-time.
Companies that have been reported to use migrant child labor include Whole Foods, Cheerios, General Mills, Ben & Jerry’s. Ben & Jerry’s released a statement that says it will take decisive action of child labor on dairy farms that have supplied milk for its products. The Biden administration has announced that they will be investigating child labor violations and improving rove support for migrant children.
ACLU reports that many of these children have fled countries plagued by violence and poverty (violence and poverty for many, that has been a result of American imperialism). These children are seeking asylum and protections under the law. This vulnerable population of children are now working jobs requiring intense physical labor.
ACLU offers the following steps to rectify the steps to this child labor, and to ensure that it never happens again. They are the following:
- Create an earned path to citizenship for immigrants
- Ensure that the border management system allows children to be with their parents, not forcibly separating families. The Trump administration shut down the asylum system during the pandemic – kids and families were kept in dangerous situations, in cages, and in limbo, with families separated. Rather than rectifying this Trump-era wrong, Biden has continued to enforce the asylum system ban. Biden even imposed a new ban that would continue tor restrict families from accessing asylum. Such is the American way – sew discord and conflict in countries in the Global South while reaping the benefits, but disallowing people from American-wrecked countries to pursue better quality of life in the US.
- Provide legal counsel and services for migrant children
It is imperative to urge your representatives to enforce the above steps, to protect migrant children and families who have been harmed by US foreign policy in their countries of origin, and now wish for a better life, only to be exploited and put in harmful conditions. We must act to protect these children.