Child Labor & the Immigration Connection
After watching the May 7th 60 Minutes report on the use of child labor in large meat packing plants across the country, I was incensed, as was my entire family. If you missed it, here's the link. My guess is that you will be incensed, too.
There is plenty of blame to go around. The companies involved (JBS, PSSI and Blackstone), the parents trying to eke out a living, and our broken immigration system.
As correspondent Scott Pelley explains, "The jobs are grim and dangerous and so they are often filled by immigrants who are desperate for work. Employers have known for 30 years that E-Verify is useless if the applicant has bought, borrowed or stolen an actual ID, which is common."
E-Verify is a website operated by the Department of Homeland Security that allows employers to confirm the immigration status of their employees using information from federal I-9 forms, ensuring that an employee is eligible to work under immigration rules.
But, Pelley is right. Everybody knows how easy it is to get fake documents, rendering E-Verify, more often than not, useless. In addition, fewer than 7% of US employers even bother to use the system.
Today's demand for labor has never been higher. Especially blue collar jobs that many Americans have no desire to fill. Jobs that millions of undocumented workers have the desire and qualifications to fill. If only they could come out of the shadows.
What we need is a common-sense solution that addresses the humanity of undocumented migrants, the horror of child labor, the nationwide labor shortage, and a multitude of complex societal issues directly impacted by the inability of Congress to enact immigration reform. What we need is a first-step solution called "ID and Tax."
Those of us at the Rational Middle of Immigration have offered this solution through a series of ongoing town hall discussions and films. The response, thus far, has been extremely positive, across party lines. Here's how it works.
- Undocumented migrants pass a background check and are offered legal status to work
- They are required to work for an employer who pays and matches taxes
- They receive a tamper-proof ID that can be verified on an internet database
- They have the same rights and duties as a guest worker
They do NOT have citizenship and this is not amnesty, as the far right would say. Nor is it what the far left demands. It is a rational middle, common-sense solution that breaks the deadlock in Congress and allows undocumented migrants to come out of the shadows. Millions would be available for hire by employers who desperately need them, knowing who their employees are (a big plus for national security) and that they're in the country legally.
And there's this: 1 million undocumented workers becoming W-2 employees translates to an annual contribution of $4.75 billion to the Social Security fund. Multiply that, every year, by the estimated 11 million+ undocumented workers currently in the country and that puts our Social Security fund in much better shape for our future.
The kids profiled in the 60 Minutes segment may represent hundreds or thousands more abused, child workers, immigrant or American-born. One child working in such deplorable conditions is one child too many. But if you’re undocumented and that's your family's only option, you do what you have to do to survive. Even at the cost of safety.
The shame of this situation is that the companies responsible do nothing to advocate for sensible reforms. They, like most, have found ways to work around our broken system, employ millions who are here undocumented, and say they are diligent in protecting their workers, until they are caught by a system that rarely gets down in the weeds to see what is really happening.
I applaud 60 Minutes for bringing this story to light. And I encourage business leaders to stand up for the millions of workers living in the shadows. It's easy to say we're committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. It's another thing to walk the talk. DEI is not a catch phrase or a box to be checked. It's about the people who make our companies run and deserve to be seen. It applies to all workers -- all humans -- even the undocumented.
Register to receive Linda Lorelle Media's Immigration Newsletter, "Education Engagement Action"
Watch the Rational Middle Immigration Film: "Exploring Solutions: The ID & Tax Proposal"
Learn more about Immigration and Child Labor at the CHILDREN AT RISK Virtual Summit on June 22nd.