KENT COUNTY, Mich., Feb. 28, 2023 — The New York Times published an article on Feb. 25 exposing the exploitation of migrant child workers, including children in the Grand Rapids area at three factories in House District 80 and one in House District 81. In response, several state representatives issued statements. 


State Rep. Phil Skaggs (D-East Grand Rapids) discussed the responses of the state representatives upon learning of the investigative report:


“Over the last few days, local Democratic state representatives have been in contact with state and federal agencies, partners, and other elected officials to work on reviewing ways we can better protect young people. I am confident the proper state — the Wages and Hours Division of the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity — and federal officials will thoroughly investigate and punish any and all wrongdoing. We are all dedicated to continuing to monitor the situation and work to implement reforms to bring an end to exploitative child labor practices in Michigan. This has been a system-wide failure and will take systemic solutions. We are grateful to coordinate with Congresswoman Hillary Scholten as she focuses on accountability and reform on the federal side of the equation.”


State Rep. John Fitzgerald (D-Wyoming) made a call for justice and an investigation in the following statement: 


“It is unacceptable and immoral that some of our most vulnerable, our children, are being exploited for commercial gain, forced to choose between an education and indentured servitude. Any company that knowingly profits from illegal child labor practices must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. In coordination and partnership with local, state and federal partners, lifting the thousands of migrant children out of this web of cruelty is a top priority.”


State Rep. Kristian Grant (D-Grand Rapids) responded with a statement of empathy for the young people in the story with the following statement: 


“We are all heartbroken and disgusted by the exploitative labor practices used against migrant children exposed in the article published this past weekend. There is no place for illegal child labor here in Kent County. Quite frankly, I’m embarrassed there are employers looking the other way and allowing the use of child labor to pad their profits. There are many concerns that must be addressed, but the top priority is the well-being of our children. As a former school board member, I am working closely with local school districts to connect students to resources that ensure their safety and support during this time.”


State Rep. Carol Glanville (D-Walker) called for an emphasis on the children: 


“I’ve worked with immigrant and refugee children and families throughout my career. The weight these kids carry, separated from home and thrust into adult responsibilities at such a young age, is unimaginable. It breaks my heart to see them further victimized. We must do better. I have already begun meeting with various agencies and school officials to identify and address gaps in service and support, as we work to hold those involved accountable.”


State Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids) issued the following statement: 


“Human trafficking is not a new issue to West Michigan. What we know this week is that businesses and government agencies need to step up accountability. Child labor is not an acceptable way to solve the human resources challenges our companies face. We need to step up and protect the potential of these caring, thoughtful, hardworking new Americans.”