U.S. companies are conducting full-scale audits and shifting “focus” after multiple reports revealed child immigrants were working in increasingly dangerous conditions, according to The New York Times.
In 2023, the Department of Labor opened an investigation into companies like Lucky Charms and Cheetos after reports of immigrant children working in dangerous conditions while thousands of children have crossed over into the U.S. in the last several years. Many other companies, including McDonald’s, Whole Foods, Costco and more, have announced that they are conducting full audits to prevent migrant children from working in dangerous conditions, according to the NYT. (RELATED: ‘Why Are You Laughing?’: GOP Rep Spars With Immigration Witness Over Whether Fraudulent Migrant Families Cross Border)
McDonald’s said that private inspectors are conducting reviews of overnight shifts at its slaughterhouses after reports revealed that 13-year-old children were cleaning heavy machinery, while the major grocery chain Costco is launching audits with Spanish-speaking inspectors to better communicate with migrant workers, according to the NYT. Companies are also auditing their cleaning companies and have stopped announcing the investigations ahead of time.
“We have been actively evolving our focus on the risk of migrant child labor domestically,” Whole Foods said in a statement to the NYT.
From 2020 to 2022, encounters with migrant children at the southern border increased from 33,000 to over 150,000 under President Joe Biden’s administration, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Despite this, the Biden administration reportedly ignored warnings in 2023 that children were being taken across the border to be exploited for child labor.
One migrant child, 14-year-old Marcos Cux, nearly lost his arm in 2022 after his sleeve got stuck in a conveyor belt at a Perdue meat packing plant in Virginia. Another child, Emilio Ortiz, who is also 14, said that harsh chemicals hurt his lungs, while other migrant children working at the plant said that it made them “cough all weekend.”
Greg Gardener, chief executive of the auditing firm Arche Advisors, said that the company saw a jump in audit requests by 50%, with many of them focusing on child labor, according to the NYT.
“We’re doing a kind of audit we were never doing before,” he told the NYT. “This is the biggest change I’ve seen in 29 years.”
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