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World Day Against Child Labor: Mexican Foreign Ministry releases report detailing Mexican children traveling to US alone are looking for work

LatinaLista — Today, the global community observes World Day Against Child Labour.

Begun in 2002 by the International Labor Organization, this year’s theme is “Give Girls a Chance — End Child Labor.”

According to ILO estimates, of the 218 million child laborers worldwide, 100 million are girls. More than half of those girls are exposed to hazardous work in a variety of sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing, mining, domestic services and commercial sexual exploitation. In many cases, work performed by girls is hidden from the public eye, leaving the girls vulnerable to physical danger and abuse.
Girls are often forced to carry a double burden by contributing significantly to their own households’ chores, including child care, as well as undertaking other employment outside of their homes.
At the same time, gender inequalities persist in primary education. Of the 75 million out-of-school children in 2006, 55 percent were girls, and for every 100 boys in school, there are only 94 girls.

Yesterday, Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, announced that the Department of Labor will provide more than $60 million for programs to address exploitive child labor globally. The administration might not have to go too far from home.
Being the United States, the prevalent thought is that the exploitation of child labor only exists in third-world countries or those countries ingrained with a rigid class system.
However, a recent report by the Mexican Foreign Ministry reveals that the United States has a very real problem with child labor.
A fact that may be known but conveniently ignored because it concerns undocumented child immigrants.

Recently, the Mexican Foreign Ministry compiled a report entitled 2008 Report of the Repatriation of Unaccompanied Minors. (The report is in Spanish)
The report found that over 17,000 children from 0-17 was captured along the US-Mexico border by US authorities. The overwhelming reason that these children gave for coming to the United States was to work.
Some of the other major findings:

  • 83 percent of the youth captured were boys, while 17 percent were girls.
  • The main destination state for the children was California followed by Texas, Arizona, New York, Illinois and Florida.
  • The majority of children were found to be between 12 and 17-years old.
  • The majority of the children reported completing secondary education.
  • Michoacan was the Mexican state where most of the children originated from.
  • While April was the month when the biggest number of boys was captured, August was the month when most girls were captured.
  • Of the children captured, 26 percent were indigenous mixteco.

This study by the Mexican government illustrates that there does exist a need by these children to work to help their families. Seeing that these are the ones who were caught, it stands to reason that many more escaped capture.
The more troubling thought is where are these other children and what are they doing?
One answer is certain — they are in the United States.
Are they at the mercy of human traffickers and being prostituted out to satisfy the demented needs of a sick demographic? Probably.
Are they being forced to work in slave-like conditions with no or very little pay and no freedom? Most likely?
Have they sacrificed their childhoods to help their families? Yes.
Are they lost forever between two countries? Hopefully, not.
Though most of these children do disappear into the underworld of this nation, they do come up for air sometimes. It’s up to all of us to be cognizant and question why a young person would be working in a particular situation or under certain conditions or be with a questionable group of people.
The saying “It takes a village to raise a child” is trite and cliche now but what’s not said often enough is that “It takes the global community to look out and protect its children.”

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  • cookie
    June 13, 2009 at 8:13 am

    Where is the personal responsibility on the part of the parents and these kids? What are they being taught by their parents? Obviously not respect for our laws and getting an education in their own country and remaining with their families.
    That is one of the reasons we need our borders secured and e-verify so that the employers cannot exploit anyone anymore. The illegal sympathizers always pull out new sob stories to try and push their agenda when the solutions are right here in this paragraph.

  • Horace
    June 13, 2009 at 8:58 am

    “A fact that may be known but conveniently ignored because it concerns undocumented child immigrants.”
    Conveniently ignored? Are you implying that our government is complicit in the exploitation of children? Another of your efforts to sensationalize an issue and demonize our government? Could it be that the parents of these children are so irresponsible as to jeopardize their children by permitting them to leave their homes? People who lack immigration credentials open themselves up for exploitation, but no on seems to think that they have a degree of responsibility for their own plight. As to making the world responsible for taking care of Mexican children, my experience is that if you give 10 people the responsibility for changing one light bulb, it will never get done, because each will assume that one of the others will do so. They are Mexican citizens and taking care of Mexican citizens is their government’s responsibility. This problem is a Mexican failure, plain an simple. I’ve got my own kids to take care of and I don’t have time to worry about someone else’s.

  • Horace
    June 13, 2009 at 9:04 am

    Where’s your outrage at the Mexican parents who permit this to happen? All I ever hear about from you is how our it’s our government’s responsibility for fixing things, including teen pregnancies, but I never once hear about personal responsibility or the responsibility of foreign governments or parents to take care of their own.

  • Marisa Treviño
    June 13, 2009 at 10:16 am

    All I can say Horace and Cookie is that those of us who have never had to help support our families can possibly understand what it’s like. My outrage lies more with those who can’t for one minute put themselves in another’s shoes to understand their situation but can only resort to ridiculing them. We’re not talking about US Hispanics here but it makes a convenient tie-in to further whatever argument you’re trying to make at the moment — I get it. So do most people who read your comments it seems.

  • Karen
    June 13, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    Re: “Are you implying that our government is complicit in the exploitation of children?”
    Of course it is. Children work in the fields of California picking crops, and that’s been the case for decades. There have even been documentaries about it.
    That being said, the Mexican government is also to blame. They couldn’t care less about their people, and I don’t understand why the Mexican elite are not embarassed that their country is third world when it doesn’t have to be. I also wish that Mexican immigrants to the United States would pressure the Mexican government to change. If not them, then who?

  • cookie
    June 13, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    There are many poor white Americans. You don’t see them sending their kids off to a foreign country illegally to work at a young age. It must be a cultural flaw along with not valueing education, remaining in poverty and a lack of courage to change things in their own countries.
    We keep hearing about the U.S. being responsible for the separation of families and here is a prime example of families separating themselves from each other.

  • Alessandra
    June 14, 2009 at 6:58 pm

    In all fairness, the poor in the U.S. (of any race) have a social safety net to fall back on. I don’t think the same can be said about the poor in Mexico. Of course, it is up to the Mexican government to make the changes needed to provide that safety net. The American taxpayer shouldn’t be charged with the responsibility of providing for the needs of foreign nationals because their own country refuses to offer them at least a modicum of assistance or education.
    This is a forum dedicated to issues pertaining to Latinos. However, I have seen documentaries and read articles about poor young girls from Eastern European countries becoming ensnared in very exploitative situations here in the U.S. They, too, come to escape poverty and try to send money to their impoverished families back home. They are lured by advertisements of what they believe are legitimate work opportunities and then fall prey to those who enslave them in the sex trade and other terrible conditions.
    I believe that we do need to make an effort to rescue these exploited young people and punish those criminals and employers.

  • Texan123
    June 15, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Many of these young people are victims of the smugglers who bring them. We must STOP human smuggling. Mexico must STOP exporting its people to the U.S. All the hard workers who come here, need to change Mexico, so her children do not have the need to immigrate.
    The U.S can not be the caretaker of all the world’s poor, uneducated, or unwanted children.
    Mexico could do much to change. To provide more for her people. As long as Federal Immigration laws are not strictly enforced, these abuses will continue.

  • Karen
    June 15, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    Re: “There are many poor white Americans. You don’t see them sending their kids off to a foreign country illegally to work at a young age.”
    Because they collect welfare.

  • Traci
    June 17, 2009 at 6:08 am

    “”Re: “There are many poor white Americans. You don’t see them sending their kids off to a foreign country illegally to work at a young age.”
    Because they collect welfare.””
    So, Karen, you’d rather have Mexico send its poor people to this country so the American people would have to subsidize them with welfare? Thanks a lot.

  • Karen
    June 17, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Mexicans come here to WORK. They are not eligible for welfare. If we eliminated welfare altogether, then you would see poor white people picking crops, etc but they don’t have to because they can collect unemployment, disability, welfare, etc.

  • cookie
    June 18, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Karen, you are delussional. Illegal aliens do collect welfare for their citizen born children. Their kids sure don’t cash the check. If they hadn’t entered this country illegally, they wouldn’t be collecting that welfare money. Since they can get a job with fake documents, you don’t think it is possible for them to collect welfare that way also?
    The AG industry is the only one where we may need LEGAL immigrants. They only make up 3% of our workforce. We can also mechanize more to eliminate that also. What about construction and other jobs that they take? Are you saying that American won’t do those jobs? Get real!

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