The cruelty is the point. The cruelty is the only point.
As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis prepares to run for president, he's not about to make the rookie mistake of relying on rightwing bigots' hatred of LGBTQ+ people to win the GOP nomination. Not when there's so much diversity, equity, and inclusiveness of hate in his party! So to shore up his credentials as the nation's premier practitioner of hate, DeSantis last month called for a range of new measures attacking undocumented immigrants. Among other things, he wants to ban local governments from issuing any identification cards for undocumented people (and invalidate any such identity documents issued by other states), and to ban the issuance of out-of-state tuition waivers for college and university students who aren't citizens or legal aliens.
That last one is a special little bit of evil, since it would undo a 2014 law originally backed by Jeanette Núñez, who's now DeSantis's lieutenant governor; it had allowed "Dreamers" to pay in-state tuition to attend Florida colleges and universities. But even children brought to the US at a very young age are still ILLEGALS, so no breaks for them. "Why would we subsidize a non-US citizen when we want to make sure we can keep it affordable for our own people?" the alleged human being said.
Most of those provisions are crammed into a vile little bill, Florida Senate Bill 1718, that would also make it a felony to transport any undocumented person "into or within this state." Get caught giving a ride anywhere in Florida to someone you know doesn't have papers, and that's a class-three felony in Florida. In addition, the bill criminalizes "concealing, harboring, or shielding from detection" anyone who illegally entered the US, so you could also be a criminal if you knowingly let a Dreamer or any other undocumented person inside your home.
Presumably, since the bill doesn't note any exceptions, you could also become a felon if, say, you're an attorney who gives an undocumented person a ride to a court hearing. After all, that too would make you a trafficker, even in light traffic. And just wait until Florida starts jailing clergy who think their houses of worship are any kind of "sanctuary." We skimmed the bill to see if there's any exception for ambulance drivers, but didn't see one. Maybe that's covered in some other section of Florida law.
Just to be on the safe side, probably best not to drive anyone who speaks Spanish to the hospital, ever.
But as the New Republic details, the anti-immigrant fun is only getting started, because if someone is caught violating any of these provisions a second time, that'll be punished as a second-degree felony.
The bill imposes thousands of dollars of fines on private employers who give work to undocumented people; employers are not allowed to continue employing someone if they find out they are undocumented. And any undocumented person who works without appropriate identification papers would be liable to a third-degree felony. The bill also prohibits undocumented people from being admitted to the Florida bar, overturning standing law that currently allows it.
If the bill is passed into law, Florida would also refuse to recognize any out-of-state licenses issued to undocumented people. Authorities would be directed to take DNA samples from undocumented people who are booked into jails or detention facilities per orders from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
If someone from a state that issues driver licenses regardless of immigration status gets pulled over in Florida, they'll be subject to the same penalties as someone driving without a license, because their license isn't real.
There's still more nastiness here: The bill requires hospitals that accept Medicaid to include a spot on intake forms to indicate whether a patient is in the US legally or not. The bill says this is simply a way to track the costs of caring for undocumented immigrants, and adds that the form must also state that "the response will not affect patient care or result in a report of the patient’s immigration status to immigration authorities."
Reassuring, isn't it? It also doesn't take a genius to see that simply asking the question may dissuade people from seeking healthcare, so good, maybe they'll die because what part of "illegal" doesn't your child's asthma attack understand? You want oxygen, maybe the governor will fly you to Massachusetts and drop you at an airstrip.
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DeSantis won't have a shortage of volunteers signing up the next time he pulls this stunt.
A few months back, whiny-voiced smegma goblin and governor of America's most useless appendage, Ron DeSantis of Florida, had an idea about how to both boost his national profile with Republican primary voters and fuck over a bunch of powerless migrants, his two favorite activities, all at once.
So he sent someone from his administration to Texas, to find some migrants who had crossed the southern border and were hanging around waiting for our nation's execrable immigration system to start the long, long process of digesting them in its twisty bowels.
DeSantis' minions rounded up about 50 or so of these Venezuelan migrants and stuck them on private jets to the tony island of Martha's Vineyard because that's where all the rich white liberals live and the rich white liberals broadly favor immigration because they are insulated from the overwhelming crush of migrants at the southern border so let's dump a bunch of migrants on their doorstep without telling the island they're coming and see how they like it, BOOM, OWNED, LIBS!
We all remember what happened next, which is that the liberals teamed up to drive the migrants into the sea while yelling at them to swim to Cape Cod and leave their beautiful exclusive paradise alone. Ha ha, no, of course that's not what happened. The people of Martha's Vineyard welcomed them with open arms, fed them, housed them, found them some warmer clothes since DeSantis had shipped them to friggin' New England in T-shirts, and generally did not act like a bunch of mean, shouty assholes.
The Vineyard's local paper, the Vineyard Gazette, checked in recently with four of the migrants who stayed on the Vineyard, and wouldn't you know it, they are thriving:
They have no other family in the U.S. but had made some friends during their brief stay on the Island. Two of those friends were Jacqueline and Larkin Stallings, Oak Bluffs business owners who had played a central role in the response effort after the migrants had landed on the Vineyard.
Eliud contacted the Stallings, who connected him and his cousins with Mike Benjamin, an Island musician.
Since October, the four have been living in Mr. Benjamin’s spare apartments at the old Edgartown dairy co-op in Cow Bay.
These lazy drains on the hard-working American taxpayer have been working odd jobs and studying English so they will be able to navigate their new country IF YOU CAN EVEN BELIEVE IT.
Previously [Daisy] worked as an aide for a child with mental and physical disabilities. She and her brother Daniel had been living in Peru at that time, and the experience left a lasting impression.
“It was very difficult, but very, very rewarding,” she said. “I’d love to study something related to that and work with individuals with disabilities again.”
Sounds suspiciously like altruism. When DeSantis is president, he'll have this woke communist deported lickety-split.
In November, all four cousins joined immigration attorney Rachel Self at her Cape Pogue home for their first Thanksgiving dinner. They’ve since been back many times, most recently for a slumber party to wait out the deep freeze that occurred in early February.
“They had never seen Top Gun, so we watched the first two movies,” Ms. Self told the Gazette by phone. “We cooked, we played music . . . we had a blast.”
They stuffed themselves with food and watched a hugely popular mid-1980s monument to their new nation's jingoism, what could be more American than that?
Meanwhile, there is a criminal investigation into DeSantis's actions, because in addition to being a moral abomination, his use of desperate migrants as props to boost his quest to get stomped on like horse shit in a barn by Donald Trump might also have been illegal.
In sum, the score is now Migrants: 1, Ron DeSantis: still sucks.
That's a tyranny!
As the US staggers through its Second Gilded Age, the legacy of decades of Republicans promising we'd all be better off if we just cut regulations on business while also gutting government agencies that only get in the way of prosperity, we're once more seeing problems that a lot of people thought had been left behind a century ago, like the horrors of child labor. Funny thing about capitalism: When you take away regulations that are supposed to keep people safe, the same old abuses come roaring right back.
Perhaps the one consolation is that we also have muckraking journalists who expose the abuses. As the New York Timesreported over the weekend (free gift link), the USA is seeing a wave of exploitation of migrant children who shouldn't be working in dangerous full-time jobs, but who are, thanks to failures in government systems meant to protect migrant children, chronic under-staffing of the agencies that are supposed to protect worker rights, and of course the tight post-pandemic labor market, in which there are too many job openings and too few adult workers willing to work for the low wages employers are offering. These kids aren't hiding out from immigration authorities, either: Most have been processed through the immigration system after surrendering at the border, and are in the US legally while their immigration cases move forward.
Also fortunate: There's a pro-labor Democrat in the White House, and outrage over the Times story has prompted the Biden administration to take action (another gift linky) to crack down on the abuses the investigation exposed:
The White House laid out a host of new initiatives to investigate child labor violations among employers and improve the basic support that migrant children receive when they are released to sponsors in the United States. Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, called the revelations in The Times “heartbreaking” and “completely unacceptable.”
As part of the new effort, the Department of Labor, which enforces these laws, said it would target not just the factories and suppliers that illegally employ children, but also the larger companies that have child labor in their supply chains. Migrant children often use false identification and find jobs through staffing agencies that do not verify their Social Security numbers.
Companies have escaped fines in the past by blaming those agencies or other subcontractors when violations are discovered.
The Labor Department announced Monday that it would lead an interagency task force to fight child labor, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services. The agencies pledged to make several reforms to keep migrant kids safe and out of dangerous jobs; several of the steps announced in the statement will address shortcomings identified by the Times.
For instance, the Times pointed out that HHS has fallen down badly in its responsibility to make sure that unaccompanied minors who cross the US-Mexico border are placed with sponsors who will care for them and make sure they go to school. As the number of unaccompanied minors has surged in recent years, HHS has fallen far short in vetting sponsors, leading to many children being placed not with family members but with labor traffickers, winding up in virtual indentured servitude. Even kids placed with relatives sometimes have to take jobs where they work long hours at dangerous jobs that are supposed to be off limits to minors.
Kids are often placed without any case management or follow-up, which the agency says it will address by working with Congress to get sufficient funding so that all minors get "post release services" by 2025 — currently, the Times reported, only a third of underaged minors get full case management.
The rest are often released to sponsors with only a card bearing the toll-free number for an HHS hotline to report any abuses, but several teens told the Times that nothing happened after they called to report they were being overworked and not paid. An HHS spokesperson explained that the most the agency can do is to pass along reports to local law enforcement, since HHS has no law enforcement powers.
HHS will make changes to hotline procedures immediately, requiring that hotline operators follow up with children who call, to let them know what law enforcement agency their complaint was forwarded to — although it might be nice if there were more follow-up with the local agencies, too. HHS will also begin providing more information on labor protections to kids and to sponsors, which is a start, at least.
The Labor Department will ramp up investigations of alleged abuses, including situations reported by the Times at a food-processing company, Hearthside Food Solutions, which has 39 factories in the US and makes and packs foods for major companies like General Mills and Frito-Lay, among others.
The joint statement also called on Congress to provide more funding for its investigations and enforcement functions, noting that a funding freeze from 2010 to 2019 ( the result of austerity demands from Republicans during the 2010 debt ceiling crisis) has led to loss of staff and critical shortages of resources needed to protect workers. Emergency funding from the COVID relief packages has helped to offset the lost capacity, but Congress hasn't funded the agency at levels the Biden administration requested.
The Labor Department also asked Congress to steeply increase penalties for companies that use child labor, noting that
The maximum civil money penalty under current law for a child labor violation is $15,138 per child. That’s not high enough to be a deterrent for major profitable companies. The Department of Labor is calling on Congress to increase civil monetary penalties, strengthening protections from retaliation for people who report child labor law violations and investigating corporations flouting child labor laws.
Well hell yes, let's do that.
Members of Congress are demanding action too, including some Republicans, who we hope will actually work to improve conditions for underaged workers, not just yell at the administration while doing nothing:
Republicans on Capitol Hill immediately began launching investigations and discussing legislation, including plans to demand the Department of Health and Human Services to track and provide better care for children after they are released to sponsors. Democrats are also considering new measures.
Both the House Judiciary and Oversight committees pledged investigations, and Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio and the Judiciary chairman, demanded in a letter sent Monday that Robin Dunn Marcos, the director of the division of H.H.S. in charge of child migrants, submit to a transcribed interview.
Great. And how about adequate funding for HHS to do the vetting and follow-up, as well as for the Labor Department to investigate child labor abuses, please?
And dare we even go there: How about some real reform of the immigration system, so that 12-year-olds aren't being sent north to clean slaughterhouses so they can send money to their families in Guatemala? If there aren't enough American adults to take those jobs, what if... we allowed in more people who want to work to come here and work?
Yeah, I know. Sometimes I think crazy stuff.
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What? You say children shouldn't work dangerous jobs?
Remember how we all laughed at Newt Gingrich and mocked him back in 2011 when he suggested maybe schools could save money by hiring children to do the janitorial work and haha, did that idiot think it was 1890 or something? But of course, since the Reagan years, Republicans and business have been doing everything in their power to recreate the Gilded Age, only with smartphones. And yes indeedy, that includes child labor. Just look at that 1909 photo up top: replace the wooden shelves and cigar boxes with stainless steel, conveyor belts, and boxes of Cheerios, and make the girls Guatemalan 15-year-olds who are working the night shift at a factory in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and here we are again.
Chances are extremely good that most of us are buying stuff made using child labor, right here in the USA, as the New York Timesreports in a blockbuster investigation (NYT gift link) that calls to mind the muckraking journalism that helped end child labor back in the first Gilded Age. Times investigative reporter Hannah Dreier and her team talked to more than a hundred child laborers in 20 states and reviewed records that make it clear that this isn't just a matter of a few bad apples hiring migrant kids. The economy is shot through with underaged workers, and virtually all the safeguards that were supposed to keep that from happening have fallen apart.
Hooray for capitalism. Hooray for dismantling the administrative state. And now Republicans in several states want to make it easier for American kids to work dangerous jobs too, as long as they call it part of a "training program."
Dreier explains that the exploitation of migrant kids has been driven by several factors that have crashed together: The children are fleeing Central America, and they're
driven by economic desperation that was worsened by the pandemic. This labor force has been slowly growing for almost a decade, but it has exploded since 2021, while the systems meant to protect children have broken down.
A big part of the tragedy is that most of the kids who are being exploited are here in the US after having gone through the immigration system that's supposed to prevent them from being abused. In the past couple years, immigration authorities have been turning back almost everyone crossing the border and turning themselves in, apart from some families with children and especially children migrating alone, as Dreier explains:
Children have crossed the Southern border on their own for decades, and since 2008, the United States has allowed non-Mexican minors to live with sponsors while they go through immigration proceedings, which can take several years. The policy, codified in anti-trafficking legislation, is intended to prevent harm to children who would otherwise be turned away and left alone in a Mexican border town.
In the early 2010s, most minors crossing the border alone were sponsored by their parents, who had already come to the US. But during the big wave of migration from Central America in 2013 to 2014, that began to change, and increasing numbers of unaccompanied minors were sponsored by more distant relatives, or worse, by sponsors who were no relation at all, but had sought to bring in minors to work.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which is supposed to ensure safe placements for migrant kids, couldn't keep up, and in recent years has been pressured to move kids out of government shelters so there aren't any horror stories about kids being warehoused in tent cities as they were during the Trump administration.
Now the horror stories are far less visible, because HHS began moving children out of federal care, and the process of vetting sponsors broke down. That's partly just a matter of lack of resources: Congress threw tons of money at immigration enforcement, but not at the systems needed to protect minors who by law must be allowed in (and indeed, Republicans would very much like to just turn back minors, too, so they can be exploited in Mexico where nobody has to think about it).
But HHS has made matters worse with a single-minded emphasis on getting kids out of federal care, regardless of where they end up. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra told Congress in a 2021 hearing, "We don’t want to continue to see a child languish in our care if there is a responsible sponsor," but in practice, that's turned out to mean any sponsor, don't bother looking too closely. Becerra reportedly demanded higher rates of releasing kids, regardless of staffers' concerns that it was resulting in labor trafficking.
His agency began paring back protections that had been in place for years, including some background checks and reviews of children’s files, according to memos reviewed by The Times and interviews with more than a dozen current and former employees [...]
Staff members said in interviews that Mr. Becerra continued to push for faster results, often asking why they could not discharge children with machine-like efficiency.
“If Henry Ford had seen this in his plants, he would have never become famous and rich. This is not the way you do an assembly line,” Mr. Becerra said at a staff meeting last summer, according to a recording obtained by The Times.
Mr. Secretary, children aren't a goddamn assembly line. The story notes that HHS is supposed to keep track of children that have been sent to sponsors, but that the reality is far different:
Unlike the foster care system, in which all children get case management, H.H.S. provides this service to about a third of children who pass through its care, and usually for just four months. Tens of thousands of other children are sent to their sponsors with little but the phone number for a national hotline. From there, they are often on their own: There is no formal follow-up from any federal or local agencies to ensure that sponsors are not putting children to work illegally.
HHS does try calling sponsors a month after kids have been released, but records the Times reviewed show that the agency loses track of roughly a third of them right away.
The hotline number given to children to report exploitation isn't much help; an HHS spokesperson explained that HHS has no law enforcement authority and can't remove children from homes, so the most it can do is pass along complaints to local law enforcement, which may or may not investigate. Sometimes a sponsor will be prosecuted, but not often. There's no systematic follow-up, and so kids may end up in virtual slavery:
Juanito Ferrer called for help after he was brought to Manassas, Va., at age 15 by an acquaintance who forced him to paint houses during the day and guard an apartment complex at night. His sponsor took his paychecks and watched him on security cameras as he slept on the basement floor.
Juanito said that when he called the hotline in 2019, the person on the other end just took a report. “I thought they’d send the police or someone to check, but they never did that,” he said. “I thought they would come and inspect the house, at least.” He eventually escaped.
The horrible truth is that child labor is now wedged firmly into our economy, which is really efficient at spreading the pain. Even the increasing use of contractors instead of company employees is part of it: Child laborers were hired by a cleaning company to clean a JBS slaughterhouse in Worthington, Minnesota, and when a tip came in, the most the Labor Department could do was to fine the cleaning company $1.5 million. JBS said it had no idea the contractor was sending children to clean its factory, and so it fired the contractor — but suffered no other consequences.
Similarly, the factory where teenagers work on food lines packaging major brand snacks and cereals is run by a giant contractor, Hearthside Food Solutions, which has 39 factories all over the US, and
has been cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for 34 violations since 2019, including for unsafe conveyor belts at the plant where [15-year-old] Carolina found her job. At least 11 workers suffered amputations in that time. In 2015, a machine caught the hairnet of an Ohio worker and ripped off part of her scalp.
The history of accidents “shows a corporate culture that lacks urgency to keep workers safe,” an OSHA official wrote after the most recent violation for an amputation.
A statement from a Hearthside spokesperson expressed shock, shock that reporters said they found child laborers there.
“We strongly dispute the safety allegations made and are proud of our safety-first culture,” the statement read.
In a haunting set piece, Dreier describes a high school history class in which the teacher, who knows many of his students work, discusses Progressive Era muckraker Jacob Riis and his journalism that exposed child labor abuses — in front of a class where most of the kids were themselves exhausted from working all night, and unable to pay attention.
As ever, you should go read the whole story with this gift link, and Jesus Christ we need to fix this.
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