The US Department of Labor (DOL) Monday announced new measures aimed at combatting child labor and, in particular, the exploitation of migrant child labor.
The measures announced Monday include an interagency taskforce, data-driven investigations, mandated follow-up calls “to any child who calls the Office of Refugee Resettlement National Call Center with a safety concern” and an appeal to Congress to raise the maximum penalty the DOL may require a child labor law violator to pay. The DOL addressed an instance of exploitative migrant child labor earlier this month when they ordered Packers Sanitation Services to pay $1.5 million in civil penalties for employing at least 102 children in “hazardous” meat packing jobs. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, the DOL may only assess a fine of $15,138 per child. However, the DOL said this figure is “not high enough to be a deterrent for major profitable companies.”
Since 2018, the DOL has observed a 69 percent increase in illegal child labor, and “the department found 835 companies it investigated had employed more than 3,800 children in violation of labor laws” over the last fiscal year. The DOL is currently pursuing over 600 additional child labor investigations. Unaccompanied migrant children are especially vulnerable to labor exploitation. According to an investigation by the New York Times, more than 250,000 unaccompanied minors arrived in the US in the past two years, and caseworkers estimated “that about two-thirds of all unaccompanied migrant children ended up working full time.”