While much of the media and our political leaders spend their time singing the sad song of employers claiming they cannot find anyone to work, the long list of forced labor, discrimination, and stolen wages continues unabated. This time, there is a new Department of Justice (DOJ) indictment of some Virginia laundry companies for forced labor, money laundering (unironically), and other offenses. The forced labor allegations included a previously trafficked child of only 13 who was forced to work nights after school.
It is not breaking news that child labor is making a comeback as our immigration system continues to disintegrate into a bail-out mechanism for businesses. A Hyundai subsidiary in Alabama was busted using child labor recently, as well. Another alleged victim referenced in this Virginia indictment was forced to work under threats of physical violence, and was forced to pay rent to live at the laundry facility with no access to a kitchen, shower, or bath. A recent lawsuit alleging indentured servitude of migrant worker shepherds described similar horrific abuse and living conditions.
For all the talk of employers being unable to find American workers to hire, perhaps someone somewhere should ask them if they have actually considered if they are the problem. Perhaps their horrible business practices are the problem. Maybe, just maybe, American workers do not want to work in horrific conditions for measly wages. And it could be that as the cost-of-living explodes, they cannot afford to sacrifice their time solely for the benefit of a business-owner’s profit margin.
A report alleges that there were 121 employees with invalid or mismatched Social Security numbers from 2018 through 2022 for the laundry businesses. Given the abuse of a 13-year-old girl and threats of physical violence, we can presume that it wasn’t a great working environment for any of these employees. An unnamed person in the indictment was allegedly the point person for acquiring fraudulent documents for the abused workers, which further highlights the fact that the government is not effectively combating fraud in the immigration system.
The government is clearly overwhelmed, with millions pouring over the border illegally and millions more admitted legally. They simply cannot competently oversee the number of people entering the United States. We see this through the expanding backlogs, fraud, and abuse. Meanwhile the government’s response at the moment is to simply rubber-stamp parole and ignore enforcement duties as a matter of policy, including the functional ending of worksite enforcement. This has set up a target-rich environment for exploitative employers, as evidenced above. Until the numbers are reduced to a level the government can manage both at the border and in our legal immigration system, every worker is at risk.
So whenever you hear our “wise legislators” discuss how there are worker shortages, just remember these stories of abuse. Yes, Virginia, there is a shortage of American children available for employers to abuse. Yes, there is a shortage of American workers willing to work for pennies under threat of violence (or suffer actual violence). And no, you are not being compassionate by attempting to foist the abuse on foreign workers. Remember, they are trying to come to America for a better life, not forced labor, wage theft, and squalor. It is unclear if Congress will ever listen to actual employees instead of the donors at their fundraising dinners, but it is clear that as long as the immigration system is allowed to be run by, for, and of the donor class, these atrocities will be the norm.
JARED CULVER is a Legal Analyst for NumbersUSA
Updated: Fri, Feb 10th 2023 @ 9:33am EST