SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Recently, New York Times investigations by Hannah Dreier have revealed allegations that several large companies may be profiting off of illegally employed underage migrant children. The State of New Mexico has invested in some of the companies, so the state’s treasurer has reached out to get assurances that the companies are working to ensure children – especially Latinos – aren’t exploited.
“I am extremely alarmed that your company may be indirectly contributing to the exploitation of children that look just like me,” New Mexico Treasurer Laura Montoya said in a letter to key companies.
The New York Times investigative reporting explores evidence of young migrants to the U.S. who have been put to work in the supply chain of the American economy. For example, the reporting claims that “migrant child labor benefits both under-the-table operations and global corporations.” According to the New York Times, that includes the supply chains of big brands such as Walmart and PepsiCo. And those are brands in which New Mexico currently invests public funds.
“Whether it’s the companies, or the entities they contract with, no one should take advantage of immigrant children or exploit their life circumstances and gain from the investment of taxpayer dollars,” New Mexico Treasurer Laura M. Montoya said in a press release. “As the first elected Latina Treasurer in this country’s history, and representing a border state, I will always advocate for the protection of all children from exploitation, especially those working to support themselves.”
Montoya has joined other state treasurers who have expressed “serious concern” regarding the allegations of child exploitation. Montoya has also sent letters to Amazon, Walmart, and PepsiCo.
The letters tell each company that the State of New Mexico won’t invest in the companies anymore until the companies can assure New Mexico that they are “properly addressing the situation.” Officially, New Mexico has downgraded those investments.
So, what sorts of assurances does Treasurer Montoya want from the companies? Montoya asks for a list of steps the companies have taken to deal with reportedly exploitive suppliers, steps the companies will take to identify additional problematic suppliers, and steps the companies will take to prevent future occurrences of child labor exploitation.
The Treasurer’s Office says that executives from PepsiCo have met with Montoya and have promised to keep New Mexico informed of an ongoing internal investigation. As of April 19, Walmart and Amazon have responded in writing but have not scheduled a meeting with the Treasurer.
“The illegal employment of underage migrant children may be more widespread than the instances cited in the New York Times Report,” the Treasurer’s Office notes in a press release. “Immigrant workers, especially those who are unauthorized to work in the United States, are particularly susceptible to abusive and unlawful labor conditions, and are especially vulnerable when bringing these violations to light. As a result, workers can be reluctant to report such violations out of fear that their employer would respond by reporting them or their family members to immigration authorities.”