The New York Times has published an article on the massive increase in exploitation of unaccompanied alien children (UAC) at worksites across America. Though it’s an important article for understanding the horrific impact of the Biden administration’s decision to gut the enforcement of the nation’s immigration laws and national borders, like the related article that preceded it, this new article fails to explain the reasons child labor is exploding. But a chart included in the article reveals more than the Times seems to realize.
The Times created a bar chart that tracks monthly reports to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of abuse of UACs placed with sponsors. The chart is reproduced below with language added by the Center for Immigration Studies (in red). The chart clearly shows two upticks in reports of UAC abuse that directly correspond to (1) the launch of an anti-ICE policy created by Sen. Kamala Harris in early 2019; and (2) the launch of anti-enforcement policies on immigration issued by President Joe Biden and DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in early 2021. Both are explained below.
Kamala Harris Promotes Child Exploitation. The first jump occurred between February and March 2019 after then-Sen. Harris launched a prohibition on U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) working with HHS to run background checks on UACs and their sponsors and making arrests where appropriate. On February 15, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2019 became law, funding several federal departments and agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Included in this funding bill was language that put an end to ICE arresting most criminal, illegal alien sponsors and UACs; the language was taken from legislation introduced by Harris only weeks before. As she explained in her press release, the language is designed to:
Prohibit the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security from using U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) information provided by an unaccompanied child, or initially obtained to evaluate sponsorship of an unaccompanied child, to conduct civil immigration enforcement actions against a child, prospective or current custodian or sponsor, or resident in the home of the prospective or current custodian or sponsor.
In other words, Harris authored an amnesty for any criminal illegal alien who is a potential sponsor of a UAC, and an amnesty for any criminal illegal alien living in a household of a potential UAC sponsor. The version that made it into the DHS funding bill included some exceptions; i.e., ICE is not prohibited from arresting sponsors with a felony conviction or charge for certain crimes such as child abuse and sex abuse. Of course, most illegal aliens have no records whatsoever and DHS cannot easily determine which illegal alien sponsors are going to abuse and exploit unaccompanied alien children.
After Kamala Harris’s anti-enforcement language became law, reports to HHS on abuse and trafficking of UACs immediately jumped up and more than doubled within three months. Harris’s disturbing anti-enforcement language has been included in every DHS funding bill since, and will be included this year if the Republican-controlled House of Representatives doesn’t stop it.
Biden Administration Promotes Child Exploitation. The second jump occurred within a few months of Joe Biden becoming president and Alejandro Mayorkas becoming DHS secretary. Their policy of dramatically reducing immigration enforcement had the immediate (and continuing) effect of encouraging mass illegal immigration to our borders. The policy of limiting ICE deportations — from 185,884 in FY20 to only 59,011 in FY21 and 72,177 in FY22 — sent the message that illegal immigration is welcomed. In FY20, ICE deported 14,449 so-called “family units” from the country, but only 2,123 in FY21 and only 7,094 in FY22. The deportation numbers of unaccompanied alien children plummeted from 4,056 in FY20 to only 220 in FY22. This led to rapid growth in a vulnerable population of children, many of whom have already been exploited along their travel to the United States.
Increasing the population of vulnerable alien children and limiting the ability of ICE officers to enforce immigration laws was all but guaranteed to result in child labor, but DHS Secretary Mayorkas made it an absolute certainty when he gutted worksite enforcement. The message to immigration officers and criminal investigators at ICE was, verbatim: “cease mass worksite operations” — which can only be interpreted by operators one way: Stop any investigation on any moderately sized employer that could result in arrests of large numbers of illegal aliens. Much of the child exploitation highlighted by the Times could have been uncovered over the past two years if Mayorkas had demanded that ICE open investigations on large employers — but he did the opposite, perpetuating the exploitation and unlawful hiring practices.
The New York Times suggests that the growth in exploitation of child labor is a new and unexpected phenomenon that the Biden administration has been ignoring for the past two years. In reality, the exploitation of illegal alien child labor became a huge issue when Biden was vice president and Mayorkas was deputy director of DHS under the Obama administration. The Senate issued a bipartisan, scathing report on HHS’s handling of UACs and their sponsors, detailing how children were being exploited on worksites for years under Obama. Read more about that in my previous report, “Biden Administration and Congressional Democrats Facilitated ‘Explosion’ in Illegal Alien Child Labor”.
Bottom line: Biden, Harris, and Mayorkas were well aware that their policies would result in an explosion of child labor across the nation, and they aren’t going to change course. If Congress wants the exploitation to end, Congress should consider mandating cooperation between ICE and HHS and requiring ICE to arrest illegal aliens who seek to sponsor children arriving at U.S. borders. Just as congressional Democrats prohibited ICE from making arrests of UAC sponsors via funding bill, congressional Republicans can require ICE to make these arrests via a funding bill.