canada africa partner reservation Unaccompanied minors flock to MN meatpacking towns, data show | The Mighty 790 KFGO

Unaccompanied minors flock to MN meatpacking towns, data show | The Mighty 790 KFGO

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Workers in a pork processing plant, 2016. Photo courtesy of US General Accountability Office.

BY: CHRISTOPHER INGRAHAM

NEW YORK (Minnesota Reformer) – More than 4,700 unaccompanied minor migrants have been released into Minnesota since 2015, according to US Health and Human Services data released by the New York Times.

Most are from Central and South American countries. Their numbers skyrocketed following the pandemic, which devastated economies in the region while also creating a labor shortage in the US As a result, many families and their children made the dangerous trek to the United States in search of economic opportunity. The Biden administration’s moves to reverse some of the Trump administration’s restrictive policies may have also played a role.

The journey is especially dangerous for children. For those who arrive in Minnesota, roughly half are released to the custody of close family members like siblings, uncles and grandparents, while another 40% join their parents, the data show.

But roughly 10% of the minors end up in the homes of unrelated adults or distant relatives, arrangements that advocates say can lead to abuse and exploitation.

Child labor violations are an area of ​​particular concern. The New York Times found that nationally, migrant children living with unrelated adults are often clustered in agricultural and manufacturing centers, suggesting they are searching for work in order to help families back home.

But those jobs can be dangerous, and numerous child labor law violations, many involving immigrant children, have made headlines in recent months.

The Minnesota data matches those national trends. Migrant children living with unrelated adults are most highly concentrated in Worthington, where JBS Foods had at least 22 underage children working overnight shifts cleaning a slaughterhouse. The janitorial company employing those children also sent underage workers to plants in St. Cloud and Austin, which also stand out on the map.

Other communities with unusually high numbers of migrant children living with unrelated adults include:

Several Twin Cities zip codes also rank highly on the list, although it’s unclear whether this is due to the presence of specific employers or simply the large immigrant population in the metro.

The data does not include names of the children or their sponsors, nor does it have any specific information on their work or school status. Some children might end up in communities like Worthington because the businesses there employ large numbers of adult migrants, with strong social networks forming as a result.