International Migrants Alliance-USA, Contact Info: firstname.lastname@example.org
The recent New York Times article “Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S.” – has sharply exposed the illegal and dangerous exploitation of thousands of migrant children by some of the most well-known brands.
“Migrant child labor benefits both under-the-table operations and global corporations, The Times found. In Los Angeles, children stitch “Made in America” tags into J. Crew shirts. They bake dinner rolls sold at Walmart and Target, process milk used in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and help debone chicken sold at Whole Foods. As recently as the fall, middle-schoolers made Fruit of the Loom socks in Alabama. In Michigan, children make auto parts used by Ford and General Motors.” - Hannah Dreier, The New York Times
As IMA, an anti-imperialist alliance of migrants, we see how this is just another manifestation of both monopoly capitalists’ profit-driven exploitation of vulnerable, unaccompanied migrant children and the state-sponsored repression and criminal neglect of migrants globally. From being forced to leave their families and homelands due to imperialist plunder and the labor trafficking documented in the article, unaccompanied migrant children workers are being exploited in some of the most dangerous jobs in society as they have no choice but to work for their very survival. In order to truly address the root causes of why unaccompanied migrant children are forced to leave their homelands and families and end up toiling in U.S. factories - we must understand the current crisis of imperialism and build a united resistance to fight against it.
The U.S. and other imperialist powers are directly responsible for the life-threatening conditions which force tens of thousands of migrants to leave their homelands and cross land and sea borders every day just to survive.
Underdeveloped and developing countries and their workers continue to suffer the worst of the global crisis caused by imperialism. Neocolonial and neoliberal economic, political and social policies perpetuate grinding poverty, unemployment and underemployment, climate crises, and greatly diminished public services that force people to migrate abroad. They are exposed to deadly conditions throughout the migration process and face continued precarity or vulnerability when working and living abroad. The discontent and resistance that this crisis generates is also severely repressed in our home countries, with whole communities forcibly displaced by militarism and fascism that further add to the hundreds of millions of displaced peoples, as inter-imperialist wars and their proxy wars all over the world intensify.
This condition is leveraged by governments of countries of origin of migrants and immigrants to ensure that the wholesale export of its people generates profit and props up its always sagging dollar reserves through government fees, supporting the businesses of migration especially recruitment agencies, and the cornering of remittances that is now packaged as making migration work for “development.”
In our home countries, it is working poor peasants, farmers, and workers and their families who suffer under neoliberal economic and trade policies like NAFTA and pushed by formations like APEC, which are forced upon underdeveloped countries by powerful elites, multinational corporations, and their government allies. With no options for survival at home, many of these forced migrants can hardly fathom leaving their children or parents behind, so they travel as a family, sometimes separately, to escape wars and military occupation, lifeless local economies, underground narcotics and gangsterism, and political repression, becoming susceptible to labor traffickers, coyotes, and human smugglers just to live. Fleeing these unlivable conditions, they then face the boot of military and police agents who enforce the power and privilege of the wealthy, both in the privatized urban centers of their homelands and at the militarized borders and interior of first world nations.
Family Separation and Child Labor Trafficking
Children and families migrating to the U.S. doubly suffer by having to leave their families, communities, and home countries devastated by neoliberal economic underdevelopment and imperialist wars and military aggression. They are then subjected to border violence, the trauma of further family separation, and inhumane detention conditions, when they arrive in the U.S. and are met with a highly militarized instead of humanitarian response.
Separating children from their parents is illegal, immoral and unethical. It has been happening in immigration and criminal courts for years, both on the borders and in the interior, without due process. Family separation has been used as a threat by ICE agents against undocumented immigrants to coerce them into signing self-deportation papers or to scare them from asserting their rights or a legal defense. Recent reports also revealed that children taken away from their parents in immigration detention facilities have suffered abuse, trauma and have also been released to child traffickers due to the lack of protection and outright neglect by the Foster Care System and Health and Human Services Agencies tasked to ensure their safety and well-being.
Imperialist states, meanwhile, benefit from the continuous supply of cheap and skilled migrant labor that businesses maximize for profit-making by underpaying them to keep the wages of all workers nailed to the floor. This fans anti-migrant and anti-immigrant sentiments among host country workers and communities that exacerbates the divide and conquer strategy of the elite to sow disunity among the working people.
Even in San Francisco, California, trafficked and unaccompanied migrant children from Central America are forced into the illegal drug trade with threats of death or violence against their families in their homelands. They are being wrongfully scapegoated for the fentanyl crisis in SF and other major cities when they are truly the victims of a violent system of trafficking, illegal drugs, and superprofits by a few. SF is considering dismantling its decades strong Sanctuary City laws because anti-immigrant hysteria is being fanned to blame and deport vulnerable migrant children. Though convictions of these children have been stopped, labor and migrant communities in San Francisco are rising up and fighting back to Defend Sanctuary and address the root causes and people-centered solutions needed for the social and economic challenges of the current crisis.
From Unaccompanied Youth to Undocumented Workers
Although, it is important for us to recognize the realities of the type of work and extreme exploitation unaccompanied youth are experiencing - the reality is that this is the only option these migrant youth have in order to survive, and such dangerous jobs are the only options they have for earning a livelihood in order to pay for basic necessities like shelter, food, and earning enough to be able to send money back to their families back home.
These young people have been failed by the very imperialist system that intervened in their home countries causing war, poverty, and plunder - forcing them to have to migrate to the US looking for a chance to earn a living to support themselves and their families, and then once they arrive, the same government systems fail them by not providing safe opportunities for them to live and thrive as children.
In talking to undocumented organizers, we also see how when these youth turn 18 and are legally able to work, however they now experience another hurdle and repression as undocumented workers. Employers with good jobs are not willing to hire undocumented workers even though there are ways to do so. In fact, the US government is currently not issuing tax identification numbers, which makes it even more difficult for undocumented workers to establish their employability much less find liveable employment. In order to truly support unaccompanied migrant youth workers and undocumented workers, we need to demand justice and an overhaul of the current system - to ensure we are providing true job access and a decent livelihood for all migrant workers - all who are trying to work to be able to support themselves and their families.
We stand with all oppressed and exploited peoples in the U.S. and around the world who are disgusted with this latest example of the super-exploitation of migrant working children. They were trafficked in an inhumane system that then tries to further scapegoat and repress migrant workers and their families who face the most difficult choices just to survive.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of the problem, although the general public is just now being made aware of this exploitation - we must work to demand that the US be held accountable for putting these youth in the situation that they are currently in and actually meet every need for unaccompanied migrant youth including: economic resources, food, education, jobs, healthcare, and justice.
We also call on individuals and organizations to support grassroots-led organizations of migrant workers and unaccompanied youth themselves, such as Superfamilia. Superfamilia is a member organization of IMA composed of unaccompanied and undocumented youth who started a mutual aid group to advocate for and support other unaccompanied and undocumented youth and to protest all forms of immigrant detention including all youth detention centers. As the International Migrants Alliance, we are committed to amplifying the voices of migrant workers and demanding justice for all migrant workers in upholding their rights, demanding resources and aid, and resisting all forms of repression of migrants.
Migrants have resisted the imperialist system every step of the way from our homelands, to the borders, to the detention centers and doorsteps of the corporations who we now see profiting from the blood and sweat of migrant working children. We will not stop fighting until all families, and especially children, are able to live and thrive as they should, and are no longer treated as factory tools for exploitation or as criminals and imprisoned for merely seeking to survive.
Until exploitation and the attacks on our homelands, on the borders, and in the interior of the U.S. stop, we will militantly resist this economic and political violence on migrants, their families and children and on all working people seeking a better life and a better world for us all.
Health, Aid, Jobs, and Justice for all Migrant Workers!
No to Exploitation and Trafficking of Child Migrant Workers!
End Forced Migration!
Stop the criminalization of migrants and refugees!
Stop the arrest, detention, and deportation of migrants!