The United States Office of Inspector General announced Thursday that an investigation into the Department of Labor has been launched for alleged child labor violations involving migrants throughout the country.
In a memorandum to Jessica Looman, the principal deputy administrator for the Wage and Hour Division at the Department of Labor, Carolyn R. Hantz, assistant inspector general for audit, said that the Inspector General’s Office was “initiating a review to determine the Wage and Hour Division’s efforts to curtail child labor law violations, as well as the cause for rising child labor law violations.”
The memorandum said that the Inspector General’s Office’s investigation would begin “immediately” and asked the Department to notify “appropriate agency officials of our plans.”
“It is good that the Inspector General is investigating child labor violations resulting from the Biden administration’s open border and unaccompanied child enticement policies,” said Lora Ries, director of the Border Security and Immigration Center at The Heritage Foundation.
“There should be many more investigations into this child exploitation.”
Ries noted that “over 396,000 unaccompanied children have been encountered by US Customs and Border Protection during the Biden administration.”
In April, the New York Times revealed the administration was quickly releasing thousands of unaccompanied migrant children into America, who end up working in exhausting jobs for long hours and in dangerous conditions.
According to the Times, around 250,000 migrant children have come alone to the U.S.
The investigation by the Times prompted the Biden White House to announce policy changes and a crackdown on businesses that hire unaccompanied migrant children.
The Times found that veteran government staffers and contractors told the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department that children were at risk. Senior government officials ranging from HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra to Biden White House aides received evidence of exploitation, scrambling quickly to stop the employment of migrant children while shifting blame for failing to protect them.
Biden adviser Susan Rice and her team reportedly failed to act even while other administration staffers called for stricter vetting of the sponsors that migrant children were placed with to prevent human trafficking.
Following the reports from the Times, the Biden White House announced that Rice would step down. According to reports, HHS officials said the Department of Labor competently screened sponsors but could not control what happened to children after they were released into the homeland.
Bloomberg and other media outlets note that the latest probe into the Department of Labor comes as agency officials said in July that over the past months, the Department of Labor’s Wage Division concluded 765 cases involving 4,474 children employed in violation of federal child labor laws.
In addition to working in dangerous jobs, reports found that children were sent to houses of unscreened adults, with some potentially being registered as sex offenders or having a history of child neglect. The Department of Labor reported a 69% increase in child labor violations from 2018 and 2022. Several former HHS employees said they were fired from the agency after raising concerns about children’s safety.
“Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has said repeatedly he will not turn back unaccompanied minors. Add to that Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra’s remarks that equate these children to widgets on an assembly line that simply need to be moved faster, and it is clear that this administration views unaccompanied minors as commodities, not children,” Ries told The Foreign Desk.
Several government agencies and officials did flag the issue for the Biden White House. According to reports, the warnings were not marked as urgent and did not clearly outline the size and scope of the problem.
During a Senate hearing in June, Republican Senator Josh Hawley from Missouri called out the Biden administration for failing to stop the widespread crisis of migrant children coming into the US illegally and being forced to work.
“The Biden administration seeks to fend off criticism by requesting $100 million for the Department of Labor in the budget supplemental to protect children from exploitation,” Ries explained. “But that simply throws good money after bad,” she added.
“This administration has let tens of thousands of children be sold into slavery,” Hawley said. “They are doing nothing about it.”
In the House, Republican lawmakers have called on the Biden administration and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to crack down on illegal immigration in the US and secure the US border with Mexico. Despite Mayorkas’ claims that the border remains secure, illegal migration continues in the US, overwhelming states like Texas, Arizona, and New York.
“The child labor violations are the downstream effect of the administration’s policies. Instead, the pipeline of unaccompanied children needs to be shut off. Since this administration won’t do that, Congress must exercise its atrophied power of the purse, defend the border, and stop unaccompanied child operations,” Ries told The Foreign Desk.