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child labor

Biden administration announces crackdown on child labor violations, exploitation of migrant children

The Biden administration on Monday announced new measures to combat child labor violations, especially among companies that employ and benefit from work by migrant children. The Labor Department, which is in charge of enforcing child labor laws, said it will crack down on the factories that employ children illegally but also the larger companies whose suppliers use child labor, and stop the interstate transport of goods created with illegal child labor, The New York Times reports.  

The Labor Department will also create a joint task force with the Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for child migrants, to better coordinate their efforts on child labor exploitation. The crackdown follows a report in the Times that found children are illegally working hazardous jobs in every state and across many industries, including at slaughterhouses, factories, construction sites, and commercial bakers, "positions that have long been off-limits to American children for nearly a century," the Times reports

At least a dozen underage migrants have been killed on the job since 2017, the Times reports. Hannah Dreier, the Times reporter who spoke with child migrants for the recent exposé, told PBS NewsHour on Monday that it's a complicated situation, with many of the children coming to the U.S. for the explicit purpose of earning money and sending it back to their families in Central America and elsewhere. Many also have to pay back the smugglers who got them to the border.

More than 250,000 children have arrived in the U.S. alone over the past two years, driven by the pandemic and changes in border enforcement. This increase in child migration has overwhelmed HHS, which has sped up the process of releasing child migrants into custody of sponsors, often leaving with little more than a phone number for an often-unresponsive child exploitation hotline, the Times reports. "Caseworkers told the Times that HHS regularly ignored obvious signs of labor exploitation — including adults who were sponsoring up to 20 children at a time." Read more about the child migrant labor issue and the Biden administration's solutions at The New York Times.