Today’s highly interesting read (03/01/2023): Kids out of cages… and into factories

June 18, 2014. Two female detainees sleep in a holding cell, as the children are separated by age group and gender, at a US Customs and Border Protection center in Nogales, Arizona. Photo: Associated Press/Ross D. Franklin

Kids out of cages… and into factories
February 28, 2023

Remember when Donald Trump crowded illegal immigrants into cages? What a brute! But what could you expect from a man who was, when you came down to it, indistinguishable from that diminutive Austrian house painter with the funny mustache and a fondness for leather?

The problem was, it was the anointed one, Barack Obama Himself, who built the cages and crammed them full of illegal immigrants. (Really they were large areas secured with chain-link fences, but “cages” sounds scarier.) And those dismal photographs depicting the huddled masses? The media splashed them everywhere as yet more evidence of Trump’s perfidy. But, wouldn’t you know it, the photographs too were from the Obama era. Even the Snopes Fact Manipulator, no friend to Trump, had to acknowledge that. Claim: Obama built the cages. Answer: True!

So there was going to have to be some serious retconning ordered up to take care of this historical discrepancy.

I think that the New York Times’s latest tug at the heartstrings, “Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the US,” was intended as a contribution to that gigantic task. If so, it has failed miserably.

As The Spectator recognized long ago, in his haste to distance himself from everything that smelled or looked like or bore the imprint of the Bad Orange Man, Joe Biden has often made things worse, not better. (Think: energy, the economy, international relations, race relations — it’s a long list.) On the question of the border, the Biden administration did two things: it essentially opened the border and it reversed Trump’s policies on dealing with families and children who had crossed into this country illegally.

An editorial in the Speccie from August 2022 underscored the result. “Biden’s border policies are nowhere near as compassionate to the migrants themselves as his administration seems to think,” the editorialist wrote. “For all the ‘kids in cages’ admonitions, by encouraging dangerous crossings, the Biden approach has resulted in far more unaccompanied children in custody today than there were under the previous administration.”

Result: a situation that brought forth the Times at its weepiest, an interminable “exposé” replete with moving, dramatically lit photos and biographies of the young scamps, “Cristan,” is only fourteen, but he works at a construction job “instead of going to school.” “Carolina packages Cheerios at night in a factory” (at night! in a factory!) “She is fifteen,” intones the fish-wrap of record. As Oscar Wilde said about another tidal wave of sentimentality, one would have to have a heart of stone to read this tripe and not laugh.

It is a tricky course that the Times endeavors but fails to negotiate here. For one thing, back home, in Guatemala or wherever,  young Cristan, Carolina and the rest would have climbed naked over broken bottles for such jobs. Child labor is not only accepted, it is eagerly embraced. Where, that is, there are jobs.

Of course we in the land of the woke and home of the triggered are infinitely more enlightened. We have laws against child labor. Indeed, there are some politicians who seem bent on outlawing labor altogether, no matter the age of the perpetrator.  But I digress.

The Times is panting-eager to expose “a new economy of exploitation” and army of “migrant children, who have been coming into the United States without their parents in record numbers” (but why is that, pray tell?) and who end up “in some of the most punishing jobs in the country.” Stuffing Cheerios into boxes, at night, in a factory, for example. We need a William Blake to dilate on these “dark Satanic mills.”

About midway through this wet hanky, the authors acknowledge that the children in question often present forged papers to the companies handling their employment. But since that fact would harsh their narrative, it is quickly passed over in order to cue the violin section. (“Twelve-year-old roofers in Florida and Tennessee. Underage slaughterhouse workers in Delaware, Mississippi and North Carolina,” etc., etc.)

I am ready to tut-tut with the limpest progressive over this flouting of our labor laws by these illegal immigrants. But here’s the rub, or one of the rubs. The word “illegally” occurs but once in this rancid essay, when the authors deplore the fact that various companies are employing children “illegally.” No such disapprobation is slathered on the people who  are here without leave, i.e., illegally.

The other rub, of course, is the stark unpleasant fact that the whole crisis that the Times deplores is the creation of the Biden administration. Under Donald Trump, we still had a southern border. Illegal immigration had been slowed to a trickle, by Donald Trump. One result was that the employment (“exploitation”) of those teens that Times cares so very, very deeply about did not happen in anything like the numbers we now see.

Bottom line, this sentimental journey, though meant to bring tears to the eyes of any sensitive soul, winds up dramatizing yet another aspect of that gargantuan train wreck that is the Biden maladministration.

—Roger Kimball is the editor and publisher of the New Criterion, publisher of Encounter Books and a Spectator columnist and contributing editor

One thought on “Today’s highly interesting read (03/01/2023): Kids out of cages… and into factories

  1. Pingback: Political anxiety; kids and factories; tribe holding WI residents hostage; smartphones; FBI vs. Catholics | This Just In… From Franklin, WI

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