Child Labor

Joe Guzzardi
8 min readApr 27


The Long, Criminally Abetted Journey from the Border to the Slaughterhouse

Child labor has returned with a vengeance; today’s unscrupulous employers rely on it with indifference and inconceivable cruelty. Not since the 1880s when Southern and Eastern Europe provided a new pool of child workers has underage employment been so prevalent. Many thought that in the United States, which the Washington, D.C., powerful and elite tout as the world’s greatest democracy, child labor was a relic left over from the Industrial Revolution.

Wrong! In fact, the opposite is the case. In its March 2023 report, the Economic Policy Institute found that in the past two years, 10 states have introduced or passed legislation that will weaken established child labor laws. EPI wrote that a “coordinated effort” is afoot to weaken child labor standards. A bill introduced in Alabama would allow children to work at construction sites. The number of minors involved in child labor law violations skyrocketed nearly 400 percent between 2015 and 2022, concluded the same EPI study, from 1,012 to 3,876. These shocking totals include a number of high-profile scandals, including the employment of dozens of children as young as 12 in an Alabama auto parts plant and more than a hundred children in dangerous jobs at a Wisconsin meatpacking plant. In both incidents, these children were overwhelmingly immigrants. The EPI report also made the connection between child labor and the wide open northern and southern borders of the U.S.

Food sanitation company accused of employing at least 31 children on graveyard shifts in slaughterhouses.

Better than usual at painting immigration critically, establishment media coverage from The New York Times, Reuters and NBC News, among others, is on the rise in bringing awareness to crimes involving child labor and underage illegal alien minors who have either walked in or been paroled into the U.S.

In a series of stories, NBC News provided horrific details. Packers Sanitation Services, Inc. (PSSI) a company contracted to work at slaughterhouses and meatpacking facilities throughout the country, allegedly employed at least 31 kids — one as young as 13 — to work at three facilities in Nebraska and Minnesota at overnight cleaning shifts, a Fair Labor Standards Act violation. Additional evidence indicated that the company may also have employed more underage children in similarly perilous conditions at 400 other nationwide sites. Interviews with the minors, in their native Spanish language, revealed that several children began their slaughterhouse shifts at 11 p.m. and worked until dawn, some for six or seven days a week, and often for periods of up to 15 months. At least three victims suffered chemical burns.

Hiring illegally present minors involves at least five crimes that begin with their unlawful entry and include the Fair Labor Act violations. Identity theft and identity fraud are federal felonies, but are nonetheless rampant facilitators in underage migrant employment. Applying for employment with either a stolen or fabricated Social Security number is another crime, as is employing unlawfully present alien workers. The blame doesn’t lay with the defenseless UACs (unaccompanied minors). To them, any job is a good job. They need income to send remittances back home and to pay off their smuggling fees.

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas

At a recent Senate hearing, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas couldn’t explain the child exploitation surge under his watch, a fact that The New York Times described as “ignored or missed.” Multiple veteran government staffers and outside contractors told the Health and Human Services Department, including in reports which reached Secretary Xavier Becerra, that children could be at risk. Critics had previously brought to Mayorkas’ attention that DHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement routinely releases minors into the custody of unvetted families, many of whom are illegally present and likely also illegally employed. The Labor Department also issued news releases that noted an increase in child labor. Senior White House aides were shown proof of exploitation, like migrants working with heavy industrial equipment and caustic chemicals. The net result of multiple efforts to shine light on booming child exploitation: nothing.

The NBC News story skirted the central factor that abets minor children’s criminal employment — the open border encouraged by President Biden and Mayorkas. Don’t be misled. The media’s deceptive language about “unaccompanied minors” is intended to deflect the truth — the UACs would be more accurately described as part of a child smuggling ring tied to the Biden administration’s open borders fiasco.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics show that after Biden took office in January 2021, he acted immediately to eliminate effective policies like categorically exempting UACs from Title 42. UAC encounters skyrocketed. Between FY 2020 and FY 2021, total UAC encounters at the Southwest border increased a staggering 342 percent, from 33,239 in FY 2020 to 146,913 in FY 2021. Those encounters increased to 152,057 in FY 2022 and are on pace to be at a similar level in FY 2023.

The federal government has failed its job to protect the rapidly increasing unaccompanied minor population. Under law, HHS’ Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) is responsible for housing unaccompanied alien children until they turn 18 or can be released to a parent, close relative or a legal guardian.

The unsurprising truth is that the receiving family is rarely vetted. Often, there is little or no idea what fate awaits the minor. At a minimum, the family is most likely illegally present. In other words, an unvetted, illegal immigrant family will take custody of an illegal alien minor, an intolerable, but to administration officials, perfectly acceptable outcome.

ORR Director Robin Dunn Marcos

At an April House Oversight and Accountability Committee subcommittee hearing, ORR Director Robin Dunn Marcos said her office is obligated to release children to sponsors, “without undue delay,” and that it has relaxed some of its vetting requirements in order to address the backlog. Marcos insisted ORR’s screening process is thorough, but admitted that the agency doesn’t track children after they are released and doesn’t have the authority to remove children from unsafe situations. The agency’s failure to keep track is the way that minors end up on meatpacking plants’ bloody mop-up floors.

The Biden administration has committed multiple immigration law violations which Congress winks at. A sampling: first, the administration’s open borders’ policy, north with Canada and south with Mexico, directly contradicts the Immigration and Nationality Act which mandates that all aliens must be detained at the border; second, the administration ignores “parole” guidelines in which that immigration status must be granted on a case-by-case review, and not granted to thousands at once; third, it established protected places, aka sanctuary sites like churches, schools and hospitals, from which Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are banned from arresting potential deportees, and fourth, it aided and abetted illegal immigration when it flew or otherwise transported illegal aliens into the interior. Neither Biden nor Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas is authorized to initiate these administrative actions which have not been congressionally approved. Yet, as far as DHS’ day-to-day operations are concerned, the administrative actions are carved in stone.

Over the last decade, several administrations have demonstrated a willingness, if not an eagerness, to break established immigration laws. In fact, Biden continuously escalates his campaign to undo immigration laws. Through its passivity, the GOP could be considered Biden’s partner-in-crime. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had a perfect opportunity to attach amendments to the must-pass debt-limit increase that could end the parole and release of millions of illegal aliens instead of eventually issuing them work permits and Social Security numbers. The House controls the federal government’s purse strings; McCarthy missed a big opportunity. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is no help either. His overall immigration-restriction voting record is lackluster and included a “yea” to double the number of asylum seekers.

Biden may have learned his immigration skullduggery at his former boss’ knee. Barack Obama used his pen and phone to create an administrative amnesty, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). As of April 2023, about 800,000 active, legally work-authorized DACAs are protected from deportation. The Migration Policy Institute estimates that the U.S. has another 1.2 million who are DACA-eligible.

Last year, the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that DACA is illegal, but allowed its recipients to regularly file two-year renewals, essentially keeping the program unchanged. For more than two decades, Congress has been unable to pass legislation that would protect DACA from its ongoing legal challenges, a sure sign that the program is unpopular with voters.

Recently, the Biden administration proposed a rule that, if finalized, would open taxpayer-funded eligibility for Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance exchanges to DACAs. Research found that taxpayers fund each Obamacare/DACA recipient to the tune of $4,600 per illegal alien, a total of more than $3.5 billion annually for the 800,000 that qualify. DACA recipients’ average age is 26, the oldest is 40, and their families are raising 300,000 U.S. birthright citizenship children. Whatever the outcome of the legislative turmoil may be, no DACAs will be deported unless they are convicted of a major crime — and then only maybe.

Central Americans headed to the U.S. border, April 2018. Photograph by David McNew / Getty

On each step of the children’s journey from the border to the slaughterhouse, the criminal perpetrators commit multiple felonies. Corrupt government officials and craven private sector employers hold the upper hand. Fines like the $1.5 million assessed on PSSI are mere wrist slaps. Hard jail time might make a difference. But if Congress consistently refuses to pass mandatory E-Verify, it’s unlikely to put its weight behind throwing the donor class behind bars.

With Title 42 ending on May 11, and millions of migrants heading to the Southwest border, the surge will surely include desperate minors who, if they survive their journey north, will eventually end up toiling in unsafe, unsanitary conditions for peon wages. As far as the White House is concerned, the status quo is fine and will proceed as usual.

Joe Guzzardi writes about immigration issues and impacts. Sign up here for free to receive columns in your inbox.



Joe Guzzardi

Syndicated columnist Joe Guzzardi writes about American baseball history and immigration issues.