After The New York Times documented extensive child labor trafficking and exposed that Biden Administration officials both knew about it and tried to cover it up, the Department of Labor (DOL) started a task force to clean up the mess they made. The DOL has now released an update on their work one day after both Secretary Mayorkas of Homeland Security and Secretary Becerra of Health and Human Services testified on Capitol Hill. The convenient timing of these inconvenient truths demands dragging all the Biden officials involved right back to Congress for a proper accounting. The DOL claims there has been a 69% increase in child labor from 2018 to 2022. This coincides with the opening of the border to the billion dollar cartel trafficking industry. The DOL further reports:
“The department’s Wage and Hour Division has significantly enhanced child labor enforcement efforts. Between Oct. 1, 2022 and July 20, 2023, as a result of this stepped-up enforcement, the agency concluded 765 child labor cases finding 4,474 children employed in violation of federal child labor laws and assessed employers with more than $6.6 million in penalties. These cases reflect a 44 percent increase in children found employed in violation of federal law and an 87 percent increase in penalties assessed from the same time period in the previous fiscal year. In addition, the agency is currently pursuing more than 700 open child labor cases.”
How about that? If you start actually investigating employers, you find violators. Callous to the tragedy of migrant kids being trafficked for cartel and corporate profit, Secretary Becerra covered this up for years and let many children suffer for his public relations benefit.
Still, it is never too late to do the right thing, and all should applaud the belated attention being paid to the child exploitation crisis that is ongoing in our country. What is needed now is critical thinking about how the immigration system is enabling the exploitation of labor, child and otherwise.
It’s no coincidence that child labor is booming while human trafficking across the border has also hit historic highs. The Biden Administration’s policies of nonenforcement are directly connected, as is evident with the shameful cover up by his staff and Department Secretaries. Their catch and release policies result in sending unaccompanied alien children to sponsors without proper vetting, all to avoid the bad press from “kids in cages.” That the children ended up freed from a “cage” to be forced into the labor force is not their concern.
Enforcing border laws and ending catch and release policies are crucial to reducing the child labor trafficking flow. Simply training staff to identify indicators of child abuse is not sufficient. While it is important to help victims, the ultimate goal should be to stop the crime before it happens. Our current laws can do that.
Additionally, the Biden Administration needs to support mandating E-Verify for employers nationwide. This program would be one of the most effective ways for employers to verify that employees are eligible to work. It would be timely, considering companies are now claiming they just didn’t know they were hiring children. E-Verify is a cheap and easy way for employers to avoid the trap of misleading documents. It would also send the signal to aliens seeking to enter illegally that there would be no prospect of employment. E-Verify stands as the simplest and cheapest policy proposal available to combat child exploitation and forced labor. The Biden Administration, if serious about righting its wrongs, needs to jump aboard this policy train.
Finally, penalties for child labor violations need to be enhanced to reflect the nature of the violation and provide downstream deterrent effects. When companies with million dollar profit margins face minimal monetary penalties, hiring child labor is profitable. We cannot rely on the business community’s good will. Wage theft, child labor, forced labor, and wage suppression is spreading like wildfire. The corporate community is not labor’s friend. Concordantly, their support of mass immigration is not just virtue signaling, but a demand for Federal policy to subsidize their profits. Child labor is child exploitation and the penalties should reflect that reality. Hopefully, DOL and the government at large will wake up and support policies that could stop this scourge, with particular focus on the role of their open borders immigration policy.
JARED CULVER is a Legal Analyst for NumbersUSA
Updated: Tue, Sep 5th 2023 @ 3:30am EDT