“This is not a 19th century problem, it is a current problem,” Labor Secretary Marty Walsh warned in a statement.
Walsh announced new measures such as the creation of an inter-institutional working groupfurther inspections in workplaces, or the increase in fines companies that illegally employ minors in production chains and dangerous jobs.
In the last fiscal year, 835 companies were investigated, which illegally employed 3,800 minors.
Is a “alarming trend”told the media on Monday an official of the administration of President Joe Biden.
The maximum fines of $15,138 for each minor in illegal work “are not high enough to deter big business,” acknowledged Walsh, whose ministry is working with Congress to increase them.
On February 17, the resolution of one of the largest child labor cases in the recent history of the country against the company was announced. Packers Sanitation Services.
That company employed -in eight states- more than 100 minors in the meat processing chain where they were exposed to toxic chemicals used to clean the equipment, for which she was sentenced to pay a fine of 1.5 million dollars.
In the country there are 600 ongoing investigations for illegal work of minors.
US legislation allows work from the age of 14, but with limited hours for those under 16 and in jobs that are not hazardous to health.
Latin American minors are the most affected
The problem has worsened with the arrival in the country of Latin American minors Unaccompanied migrants fleeing poverty and violence, most have no family in the United States, according to the Labor Department.
Others end up in the homes of relatives, often in financial difficulties, or sponsors who take care of them, forcing them to work to contribute to the family economy.
In strenuous production lines, hotels, dairy farms or in agriculture, The New York Times denounced this weekend the working conditions of many immigrant minors, mostly Central Americans.
In the last year, 130,000 unaccompanied minors arrived in the country, triple the number that three years ago, the newspaper says.
Despite the fact that the federal government knows of their existence, and that the institutions must support and protect them from trafficking and exploitation, they have lost track of more than 86,000 minors, according to the outlet.
“Every child in this country, regardless of their circumstance, deserves protection and care as we would expect for our own child,” Health Secretary Xavier Becerra said in the statement.
The Labor Department complains that “too often, companies look the other way and claim that their employment agency, or subcontractors or suppliers, are responsible. Here we all have a responsibility,” it settled.
The Joe Biden administration is working with Congress to provide more funds -and personnel- to inspection programs in companies as well as accompaniment for single minors and their sponsors or foster families.