Weeks after it was revealed that immigrant children were routinely exploited for cheap labor in the United States, prompting bipartisan outrage and a call to action on the Capitol, Congress announced this move. We weren’t even one step closer to addressing the issue. immigration policy.
Laws against corporate use of child labor have run out of steam and currently enjoy little Republican support. Meanwhile, Democrats are seeking to increase funding for federal agencies to provide more supportive services to the children of immigrants who cross the border on their own.home, where Republicans promised budget cuts for government agencies.
At the time, Republican proposals to increase adult scrutiny of households sponsoring immigrant children and expedite the exclusion of unaccompanied minors had little chance of gaining support in the Democratic-led Senate. is not.
Instead, as Congress gears up for a heated debate over immigration policy, Republicans and Democrats have retreated in divisive directions, abandoning their initial hopes of tackling child labor in a bipartisan manner. Did.
Republicans point to the exploitative conditions of companies that employ immigrant children, investigation To new york times, to justify a hard-line immigration package. The Times reported that the number of children crossing the border alone in the South surged to record levels in February, prompting many children to endure long-standing labor laws in factories, slaughterhouses and construction sites. It was reported that he was working in a dangerous and illegal job.
The Republican bill for this week’s House vote is a series of strict policy This includes measures to house immigrant children in detention centers and facilitate their deportation.
Desperately trying to avoid appearing to support Republicans who oppose Biden’s immigration policies, Democrats have quieted criticism of the government’s handling of the situation and instead hired immigrant children. They are directing their anger at companies that
As a result, the political space for reaching consensus in parliament on policy solutions to protect these children from exploitation is running out.
Janet Murguia, president of the Latino civil rights group UnidosUS, said in an interview, “I know it’s complicated, but this has to be about protecting children, not the larger politics of borders. ‘ said. “It’s easy. It should be easy to find bipartisan support for this.”
The Biden administration has taken steps to change some of its policies and practices since The Times revealed a surge in child migrant labor. The Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for caring for unaccompanied immigrant children with trusted adults, has designated a team to assist children who have left government shelters, and will provide case management to more children. and legal services.
The Labor Department has started some Initiatives to Strengthen Enforcement of Child Labor Lawsand Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro N. Mayorcas said last month that his department would add new mandates to address crimes of exploitation, including focusing on victims of migrant child labor.
Yet there are few signs of meaningful momentum to enact legislation that can stop the exploitation of child immigrants as workers. opening slot In a fit of outrage from lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats alike have vented their anger on the issue, blaming the Biden administration. Leading members of both parties have sent letters to ministers demanding to know how unaccompanied minors ended up filling dangerous jobs in grueling factory shifts. Legislators drafted a bipartisan bill to impose fines on companies violating child labor laws.
But by the time Congress held its first oversight hearing on the issue last month, the issue had become embroiled in an impending battle in the House of Representatives over the border security bill. Republican campaign to impeach Mr. Mayorcas Over the southern border states.
Even in a series of hearings specifically organized to address trends in immigrant child labor, Republicans have used the topic to denounce the Biden administration’s overall immigration policy.
“This is a crisis exacerbated by President Biden’s open-border policy,” Rep. Kathy McMorris-Rogers, a Washington Republican and chairman of the Energy Commerce Commission, said last month in an interview with the Health and Human Inspector General. said at the director’s hearing. service department.
During a Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing, Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley accused Mr. Mayorkas of the issue and suggested he should lose his job.
“At every step you have fostered the enslavement of this modern-day indentured child,” cried Hawley. “Why isn’t this impeached?”
At the same time, Democrats have softened their criticism of the Biden administration over the crisis. declare the government’s treatment of the matter unacceptableThey have reserved the harshest words against the Republicans, who they claim the proposed policies will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said at a recent hearing that he was “proud of his concern for exploited children, and at the same time, he is taking important steps away from unaccompanied children.” “It’s hard to take seriously a party that is stripping you of your protection.”
He defended the administration’s handling of the issue, including the review of sponsors.
“Despite the fact that there have been some pretty heartbreaking stories about sponsors being human traffickers or using their children to work, over 85% of our sponsors are close relatives this fiscal year. I understand that,” Nadler said at a recent judicial conference. Hearings of the Subcommittee on Migrant Child Labor.
These relatives are often uncles and cousins that the arriving children barely know, and some force minors into dangerous jobs, The Times reports.
In the Senate, Illinois Democrat and Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard J. Durbin said: last week He worked to bring in high-ranking officials to testify about the exploitation of children by immigrants. He was one of the first Democrats to write to the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, demanding to know if the
But some Democrats say their party is too cowardly to confront the Biden administration about the crisis.
Rep. Katie Porter, a California Democrat, said in an interview, “Republicans don’t want to hold Republican administrations accountable, Democrats want to hold Democratic administrations accountable. I see no.
Several Democratic lawmakers have sent letters to companies named in the Times poll asking what steps they are taking to ensure they do not employ minors in the future. Connecticut, New York A group of a dozen major institutional investors, including state officials in Maine, have sent their own letter, and New Mexico state treasurers have put several companies on a list barred from future investment. Ford said it would demand that staffing firms provide better age verification, and Ben & Jerry’s, which is facing class action lawsuits over the presence of young workers in its supply chain, said it would sue dairy farms that use child labor. I promised to stop.
Other Democrats have publicly caught fire as businesses pressure lawmakers to give them more time.
In March, the Hispanic caucuses in Congress drafted a letter to be sent to chief executives of companies implicated in the use of child labor, in which they pledged to “eliminate child labor throughout their supply chains.” We need to take necessary measures for this,” and requested a briefing. In a draft shared with The New York Times. This group informed the White House that a letter was coming.
But the effort stalled as companies such as PepsiCo and General Motors lobbied caucus members to hold out, according to two people familiar with the initiative.
The letter was never sent.
At the same time, the two parties have followed different legislative paths. In late March, Democrat Michigan Rep. Hilary Scholten and Republican South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace announced that civil penalties for individual child labor law violations would increase by nearly 10% from the current cap of about $15,000 per regular violation. They joined forces to raise the bill to double. This mirrors measures introduced weeks ago by Hawaii Democratic Senator Brian Schatz.
Since then, however, House Democrats have rallied in support of a more aggressive proposal from Michigan Democrat Rep. He proposed imposing new criminal charges on companies that repeatedly disrespect. No House Republican other than Mr. Mace has signed the measure.
Republicans are just beginning to propose similar legislative changes. On Wednesday, Hawley introduced fines of up to $100 million for labor law violators and up to $500 million for willful violators.
Many other Republicans argue that pursuing corporations simply isn’t a priority.
Texas Rep. Chip Roy, the lead architect of his party’s tougher border security bill, said of the policy to allow children of immigrants to enter the United States: The state was the main reason children were forced to work.
As for companies exploiting children, “I’m sure it’s already against the law,” he added.
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