N.Y. Times Reports Child Labor Abuse, but Does Not Mention Their Illegal Presence

By David North on February 27, 2023

On Sunday, February 26, the New York Times devoted much of its front page, three full inside pages, and 15 photographs to a by-product of the border chaos, the abuse of child workers, without discussing their illegal presence.

The report’s headline in the print version was: “Alone, Underage and Exploited for Labor: Migrant Children Toil in Hazardous Jobs Across the U.S.”

The headline echoes the subdued outrage of the article about the treatment of the children by their employers, including many with prominent brand-name products, and by the government agencies that are supposed to protect the youngsters.

We hear about, for example, the death of 15-year-old Juan Mauricio Ortiz who “fell about 50 feet on his first day of work for an Alabama roofing company”. Similarly, “13-year-olds working in meat plants, 12-year-olds working at suppliers for Hyundai and Kia ... and children who should have been in middle school working at commercial bakeries”.

The article is by Hannah Dreier, a Times investigative reporter whose byline I have not seen before. It focuses on the after-border experiences of large numbers of unaccompanied minors sent to our Southern border by their poverty-stricken parents, hoping that the children will be able to send them remittances, and the work of the government agencies that are supposed to look after the youngsters. One key paragraph of Dreier’s follows:

The growth of migrant child labor in the United States ... is a result of a chain of willful ignorance. Companies ignore the young faces in their backroom and on their factory floors. Schools often decline to report apparent labor violations, believing it will hurt children more than help. And HHS behaves as if the migrants who melt unseen into the country are doing just fine.

And the Times writes about these abuses without mentioning the underlying fact that these children would not be in the United States were it not for the near-total collapse of enforcement at the Southern border, and only briefly mentioning the federal policies that incentivize the illegal immigration of unaccompanied minors. (Most of the youngsters seemed to come from Central America, notably Guatemala.)

The Department of Health and Human Services, and its secretary, Xavier Becerra, get particular attention. One former HHS employee said that “Twenty percent of kids have to be released [from HHS-funded operations] or you get dinged.” Again, quoting the article:

During a call last March, Mr. Becerra told Cindy Huang, the [Office of Refugee Resettlement] director, that if she could not increase the number of discharges, he would find someone who could. ... She resigned a month later.

Many of the children try to attend school while working eight-hour-plus shifts.

It is helpful that the Times devoted so many resources to this subject; it would have been more helpful if it linked its grim disclosures to the current administration’s failure at the Southern border.