Unaccompanied Minors Crossing the Border Will Seek Work

In Search of a Better Life

In March, almost 19,000 migrant children, coming without parents or guardians, were processed at the southern border, the most ever in a given month.[1] That is about 633 children per day. Some of the most glaring news showing up at our TV screens each day concerns this. Migrant children, two-thirds originating from Guatemala, Salvador, and Honduras, and the rest mostly from Mexico, have made the trek all the way to our southern border so that they may have the opportunity of a better life in America.[2] Some of them are lured by the prospect of a new administration, some by a change of season from winter to spring. In May, numbers could rise to 21,800 to 25,000, an average of 780 unaccompanied children per day.[3] These numbers raise concerns for the welfare of these children.

Benefits of Employing Minors

The migrant and unaccompanied minors crossing the border will seek ways to support themselves as they make their way for life in America. Many will seek jobs, perhaps under the table, to financially support themselves. Employers may be quick to put to work minors who have less expectations from their employers. The advantages gained by employers in employing minors are plentiful. In addition to a minimum wage, they may not be provided a benefits package “such as insurance or a retirement plan.”[4] There is also a tax advantage such as tax credits available in some states. In addition, minors are “young and impressionable” and can bring “new ideas or ways of looking at tasks” to bear.[5]

Although the legal age to hire someone is 14, there will be instances of migrant children under the age of 14 being hired. This would be against the Fair Labor Standards Act.[6] Yet, it is plausible that this will happen because many of these children will want to earn money. This is indeed a humanitarian issue.

Minors Can Be Paid Double in Workers’ Compensation

Many of these unaccompanied minors and children will want to work as soon as they arrive, and some may injure themselves, or worse, during work. One workers’ compensation statute describes how minors injured during employment may be paid double the indemnity benefits that can be paid to someone of legal age.[7] This offers more incentive for employers to adequately teach minors about work safety and hazards. Minors, depending on the industry, may be more prone to work injuries due to inexperience. The law, in its original text, states: “If the injured employee at the time of the accident or compensable occupational disease is a minor under 14 years of age employed in violation of the labor law or a minor between 14 and 18 years of age employed, permitted or suffered to work without an employment certificate or special permit if required by law or at an occupation prohibited at the minor’s age by law, a compensation or death benefit shall be payable to the employee or his dependents which shall be double the amount payable under the schedules provided in R.S.34:15-12 and R.S.34:15-13.”[8] This law offers some financial security to injured minors.

Processing Times

These unaccompanied minors are going through extensive processing times. There is a law concerning the length of time migrant children stay in processed facilities. The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 states that government agencies must “transfer most unaccompanied migrant children to the refugee office within 72 hours, absent extraordinary circumstances”, yet children are spending an average of 117 hours in these detention facilities.[9][10]

More Minors in the Workforce

After transferred to the refugee office, the government looks for sponsors who will take them in, such as relatives, whether they may be immediate or distant. In some cases, they are placed with unrelated sponsors, and some have even been placed with Immigration and Customs Enforcement on their 18th birthday.[11] Sponsors may seek to put to work minors who come under their care so that they may receive reimbursement for expenses paid to take care of that minor, such as food, clothing, and shelter. It is expectable to see an influx of working minors within the coming months, in addition to a rise in workers’ compensation cases involving minors.

[1] Ordoñez, Franco. “Almost 19,000 Migrant Children Stopped At U.S. Border in March, Most Ever In A Month.” NPR, NPR, 8 Apr. 2021, www.npr.org/2021/04/08/985296354/almost-19-000-migrant-children-stopped-at-u-s-border-in-march-most-ever-in-a-mon.

[2] Hesson, Ted, and Mica Rosenberg. “Explainer: Why More Migrant Children Are Arriving at the U.S.-Mexico Border.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 18 Mar. 2021, www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-children-explainer/explainer-why-more-migrant-children-are-arriving-at-the-u-s-mexico-border-idUSKBN2BA11B.

[3] Caldwell, Alicia A., and Michelle Hackman. “WSJ News Exclusive | Border Crossings by Migrant Children to Rise Sharply, U.S. Estimates Show.” The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones & Company, Inc., 26 Mar. 2021, www.wsj.com/articles/border-crossings-by-migrant-children-to-rise-sharply-according-to-internal-u-s-government-estimates-11616800942.

[4] Anonymous. “Why It Is a Good Idea to Hire Minors for Your Business.” MightyRecruiter, Bold Limited., www.mightyrecruiter.com/recruiter-guide/why-it-is-good-idea-to-hire-minors-for-your-business/#:~:text=Lower%20Pay%20Equals%20Savings&text=Usually%2C%20minors%20work%20part%2Dtime,insurance%20or%20a%20retirement%20plan.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Anonymous. “Age Requirements.” U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Labor, www.dol.gov/general/topic/youthlabor/agerequirements#:~:text=The%20rules%20vary%20depending%20upon,under%20the%20age%20of%2016.

[7] Anonymous. “2009 New Jersey Code :: TITLE 34 – LABOR AND WORKMEN’S COMPENSATION :: 34:15 :: 34:15-10 – Employment of Minors.” Justia US Law, Justia, law.justia.com/codes/new-jersey/2009/title-34/34-15/34-15-10/.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Montoya-Galvez, Camilo. “The Facts about How the U.S. Processes Unaccompanied Migrant Children at the Border.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 25 Feb. 2021, www.cbsnews.com/news/unaccompanied-migrant-children-united-states-processing-housing/.

[10] Ordoñez, Franco, and Dana Farrington. “Young Migrants Held By Border Patrol Far Longer Than Allowed, Document Shows.” NPR, NPR, 16 Mar. 2021, www.npr.org/2021/03/16/977853878/young-migrants-held-by-border-patrol-far-longer-than-allowed-document-shows.

[11] Montoya-Galvez, Camilo. “The Facts about How the U.S. Processes Unaccompanied Migrant Children at the Border.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 25 Feb. 2021, www.cbsnews.com/news/unaccompanied-migrant-children-united-states-processing-housing/.

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