The Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor is tasked with enforcing child labor laws. States also conduct their own enforcement efforts. In both cases though, a relatively small number of investigators are asked to police millions of employers.

Advocate Len Morris: Children’s Rights are Human Rights

 Photos found at

Photos found at

People around the world have been shocked and repelled by the behavior of the Trump Administration in separating children from their families at our southern border. Children under five were taken from their mothers, while almost three thousand other children were separated from parents and placed in detention centers hundreds and even thousands of miles away, The public outcry has been bipartisan and has included Melania and Ivanka Trump, along with the House and Senate Republican leadership. The video and audio of children crying as they were taken from their mothers has been stomach-turning, as has the imagery of children being held in cages, detained and treated like animals. Over the past few weeks, there continue to be dismaying reports of children abused in these same centers with forced medications, the use of restraints, withholding of food, solitary confinement.

In spite of a federal judge’s order to reunite all children with their families, the Department of Homeland Security has slow-walked the process, missing court-ordered deadlines, while simultaneously deporting their parents. Using children as political pawns in a cynical effort gin up his base, President Trump is personally responsible for orphaning young children and clearly could care less. He is assisted in this process by a handful of dedicated appointees whose fallback position is that they are only following orders and the rule of law, though no law is actually broken when a migrant requests asylum. Incredibly, no less than our Attorney General called the implementation of these heartless policies a Christian act using Romans to justify enforcing the law. What he overlooked in his remarks was that we are not a theocracy and he has no business inflicting his personal religious beliefs on all Americans. Furthermore mistreating children is anything but Christian. A reminder, Jeff, it was Jesus Christ who said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

The Administration continues to refuse due process to migrants seeking asylum, has attempted to farm out the reunification process to the ACLU (an effort rejected by the court) and clearly has no record of the whereabouts of the hastily deported parents. As of now, there are still hundreds of children held in illegal custody, including almost 100 children under five years of age.


I say illegal, because the United States is violating a series of United Nations Declarations on Human Rights that includes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the Declaration on the Rights of the Child (1959), and the Convention on the Rights of Child (1989). In the aftermath of World War Two, where an estimated 65 to 80 million people perished, these framework documents were established to express a global consensus on the inherent dignity of humankind, regardless of race, gender or nationality. In the process, children were singled out for special care, as they are wholly dependent on adults for security and the basics of a decent life.


Here are some provisions of these documents that the Trump administration violates daily in practice and in spirit.

“In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

States parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated from his or her parents against their will, except when competent authorities subject to judicial review determine, in accordance with applicable laws and procedures, that such separation is necessary for the best interest of the child.

States parties shall respect the right of a child who is separated from one or both parents to maintain personal relations and direct contact with both parents on a regular basis, except if it is contrary to the child’s best interests.”

— The Convention on the Rights of the Child:
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“The child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.

The child shall in all circumstances be among the first to receive protection and relief.

The child shall be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation.”

— The Declaration of the Rights of the Child 

Virtually every one of the above provisions has been violated by the Trump administration over the past few months and the violations continue daily. In what has amounted to state sanctioned kidnapping, there has been no accountability for the persecution and detention of thousands of innocent children and legitimate asylum seekers. Likewise, there has been no accountability for the American government violating fundamental principles of human rights, decency and international law.

The Courts and Congress should hold Trump and his coterie accountable. Despite their protestations, this isn’t policy for the benefit of America’s security, this is criminal behavior that should not go unpunished.

[This opinion piece was originally published at the web site of Media Voices for Children, an online community for children’s rights, on August 24, 2018 and can be read here. As of September 13, 2018, news reports from estimated that more than 400 children remained separated from their parents in border detention facilities.] 

Len Morris is an award-winning film maker who has made several child labor films, including the seminal documentary, “Stolen Childhoods.” He is the recipient of the Iqbal Massih Award from the U.S. Department of Labor for his child labor advocacy.

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Jim Leonard Remembers Claire White, Recipient of the National Consumer League’s Florence Kelley Award



Jim Leonard, retired attorney with the US Department of Labor and a long-time colleague of Claire White made the following remarks at a ceremony celebrating her life on September 10, 2016:

The most important thing about Claire White, as I see it, and as I think all of you see it, if that you just couldn’t help loving her.  Her human warmth, her many kindnesses, and her amazing empathetic eyes were, to me at any rate, what most endeared her to all of us.

This gathering is a very emotional time.  But the emotion we are focusing on here is not our profound sorrow at Claire’s passing, but instead the pleasure we feel in recalling and celebrating her life.

Quite a few others will be talking today about Claire, so I want to keep my remarks short.  So here are two scenes from Claire’s life that some or even all of you may not recall or even know about.

The first scene dates from the late 1970s, when Claire came to the Department of Labor for a job interview in the Fair Labor Standards Division of the Solicitor’s Office.  I was the first person to interview her.  She also had interviews some other lawyers, and I did not have the final say on whether to hire her, but I was glad that we made her an offer and that she accepted.  Many years later, Claire wrote me a letter saying that she loved the “comfort level” and the “non-threatening environment” that she felt during the interviews. … Read the rest

Poultry processor House of Raeford to pay fine for child labor violations at Teachey, NC, plant following US Department of Labor investigation

U.S. Department of Labor Press Release/Wage and Hour Division [Oct. 16, 2012]

TEACHEY, N.C. — The U.S. Department of Labor has assessed a total of $12,400 in civil money penalties against poultry processor House of Raeford Farms Inc. following an investigation by the department’s Wage and Hour Division that found minors performing hazardous duties prohibited by the Fair Labor Standards Act’s child labor provisions.

“Employers who hire young workers must comply with all federal and state regulations intended to keep our youth safe on the job,” said Richard Blaylock, director of the division’s Raleigh District Office. “This situation is particularly disappointing because the company previously was cited for the same type of violation. It is critical for employers to learn about and comply with the child labor provisions of America’s labor laws.”

Investigators found that two minors, both age 17,were employed in the company’s deboning department, where they were required to operate an electric knife in violation of the FLSA’s Hazardous Occupation Order No. 10, which prohibits workers under the age of 18 from operating or cleaning powered meat processing equipment, including meat slicers.

In addition to paying the civil money penalties, the company has agreed to maintain future compliance with the FLSA’s child labor provisions.

House of Raeford Farms Inc. has processing facilities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana, including six fresh poultry processing plants and two further processing plants.

The FLSA establishes a minimum age of 18 for workers in those nonagricultural occupations that the secretary of labor finds and declares to be particularly hazardous for 16- and 17-year-old workers or detrimental to their health or well-being.… Read the rest

Organizer of child sex ring in Thailand sentenced to 25 years

New York (CNN) — A Canadian man who admitted to running a sex ring involving young boys at his home in Thailand was sentenced by a federal judge in Newark, New Jersey, to 25 years in prison, court officials said Monday.

John Wrenshall pleaded guilty to three counts, including conspiracy to engage in sex tourism, conspiracy to produce child pornography and distribution of child pornography, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said in a statement.

“John Wrenshall created a place where innocent children were sexually brutalized as a vacation pastime,” Fishman said. “It is fitting that a man who has condemned children to live with unimaginable scars for his pleasure and profit should spend decades of his own life in a prison cell.”

Wrenshall’s attorney could not be immediately reached for comment.

Since January 2000, court authorities said the 64-year-old Canadian arranged illicit trips for Americans and others who paid him to engage in anal sex, oral sex and other sexual acts with Thai boys, according to the statement.

His customers were permitted to videotape and photograph their abuse, the statement said.

Wrenshall also personally victimized the boys in an effort to “train” them for his customers, it added.

Some of the boys were as young as 4.

London’s Metropolitan Police arrested Wrenshall at Heathrow Airport in December 2008.

Three of his clients — Wayne Nelson Corliss, Burgess Lee Burgess and Mitchell Kent Jackson — already have pleaded guilty and were sentenced on sex tourism and related charges, the statement said.

Corliss was sentenced to 20 years in prison in November 2009, while Burgess and Jackson each received 6½-year sentences.… Read the rest