Inhumanity With Migrant Children in America’s ‘Land of Free’

inhumanity with migrant children in america's 'land of free'

inhumanity with migrant children in america’s ‘land of free’

The Californian Sun-Maid in a red bonnet holds out green grapes while grinning and having flushed cheeks on the red sultana package boxes. The young migrant grape pickers who toil in California’s vineyards, their sweat dripping onto the warm, white soil, and their bodies poisoned by chemical pesticides, are not visible.

Such horrific events were intended to be permanently recorded in US history books. Unaccompanied minors from Latin America continue to put their lives in danger while trying to cross the US-Mexico border in search of “a better life” even as the Sun-Maid greet shoppers with their broad smiles. Three times as many unaccompanied minors entered the US last year as there were five years prior, reaching a new high of 130,000. This summer is expected to see another wave of immigration due to the expiration of “Title 42,” a radical and obnoxious border policy from the Trump administration that permits the quick expulsion of migrants during COVID-19.

However, the US is not in any way their promised land. They are an easy target for exploitation by rapacious capitalists because they lack a proper legal identity. The majority of them become migrant child labor victims, forced to work long hours, illegally, and in appalling conditions in a form of “modern slavery” that affects a variety of American industries.

The truth can be horrifying. The New York Times spoke with more than 100 migrant child workers in 20 states in February of this year, and they reported on how these kids described feeling worn out from hard work and trapped in desperation. They clean slaughterhouses, harvest coffee, package cereal, wash dishes, wash hotel sheets, deliver meals, and sew planks. Some even engage in hazardous work that is only permitted for adults.

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If the US government has taken any action to address such tragedies, one might wonder. However, only in the opposite direction. US government officials are actually opening legislative loopholes that allow for further exploitation rather than putting a stop to illegal child labor. The governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds, signed Senate File 542, which permits individuals under the age of 18 to work longer hours, in certain regulated fields, and in positions that involve serving alcohol, on May 26. More than ten states, including Minnesota and Arkansas, have signed or intend to sign legislation easing the restrictions on child labor over the past two years.

Profits are the only explanation. Interest groups have long lobbied lawmakers in these states, requesting flexibility for minor employees and stressing the need for more kids to join the workforce to make up for labor shortages. These organizations openly applaud legislators for enacting legislation that permits hiring more minors for longer hours and take credit for these initiatives.

Another obstacle to the long-term solution to the child labor problem is US party politics. As long as Republicans and Democrats are locked in their never-ending partisan battle, reports of child exploitation among immigrants are not a basis for congressional action. The children’s tragic suffering only serves to intensify the daily bitter struggle taking place on Capitol Hill. Additionally, since they are not allowed to vote—the essentially only thing that politicians care about—migrant child workers have no voice in this process. They lack the means to use against lobbyists and the interest groups they represent, in contrast to their local peers.

The US describes itself as a “champion of human rights”. However, what the migrant children from south of its border experience here suggests otherwise.

When the American founding fathers said, “All men are created equal,” they had in mind a nation where everyone had a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But as of right now, only one of the 193 UN member states—the United States—has not ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The “land of the free and home of the brave” has changed into the “land of greed and home of the slave”. That is so ironic.

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