The New York Times recently reported that 12 teenage workers in the United States have died since 2017, with many others injured, due to being forced to work long hours to pay off high-interest smuggling debts and support their families.
These children are often unaccompanied migrants who have been deemed “Unaccompanied Alien Children” (UAC) and are brought into the United States under the guise of seeking asylum from persecution and poverty.
The UAC pipeline was opened in 2008 and shut down by former President Trump in 2020 after the arrival of over 400,000 children and teenagers. However, President Biden promptly restarted the pipeline upon taking office, with over 320,000 so-called UACs being imported within his wave of at least 2.5 million southern migrants.
The federal government’s quiet welcome for these child workers is cause for concern. The Biden administration’s pro-migration policies may have helped enable the exploitation of vulnerable children. The Labor Department, under Biden, tracks the deaths of foreign-born child workers but no longer makes them public.
The outgoing chief, Marty Walsh, has stated that the issue of immigration is how to ensure that companies and businesses have the opportunity to employ people, suggesting that the administration is not trying to protect Americans from cheap imported workers.
The use of illegal child labor has been widespread, with one staffing firm supplying children to meatpackers being owned by the Blackstone investment firm, which donated $34 million to the GOP in the run-up to the 2022 elections.
However, GOP legislators have been strangely silent about the Democrats’ child-worker scandals, even though the child abuse is far larger and more deliberate than Trump’s supposed “separation” policies of 2018 and 2019.
It is possible that GOP leaders are ignoring the political opportunity to shame and embarrass Democrats because they do not want to antagonize business donors by spotlighting the widespread use of illegal child workers.
The exploitation of child workers is not a new phenomenon. Children have been killed after being allowed into the United States via the so-called Flores loophole that Trump also tried to close amid claims he was “separating” parents from children.