Alone and Exploited

Reporter Hannah Dreier’s investigation into the wide resurgence of child labor in the United States began with a simple question: As more unaccompanied migrant children began crossing the border than ever before, where were they all going? In this 20-month long investigation, Dreier uncovered a culture of careless disregard for child labor laws at construction sites, slaughterhouses and in factories across the country and a “chain of willful ignorance” at every point in the system meant to protect children from exploitation. Dreier earned the trust of hundreds of migrant children, federal contractors, investigators and auditors, government social workers, and sources at the highest levels of the White House and federal agencies to bring the truth to light. The impact of her investigation was swift and prompted immediate reforms across state and federal agencies as well as dozens of major corporations and brands.

Undocumented and Underage 

A Dickensian scenario was playing out in America’s South: undocumented immigrant children, some as young as 12, working in dangerous factories building parts for two of the world’s most successful automakers: Hyundai and sister brand Kia. Initially prompted by the soaring number of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern border and ending up in rural Alabama, Reuters reporters Joshua Schneyer, Mica Rosenberg, and Kristina Cooke spent more than a year with many of the state’s rural immigrant communities and uncovered widespread abuses in a fast-growing local industry enabled by billions of dollars in tax incentives and lax labor laws. First, the reporters found that Alabama staffing agencies were hiring underage migrants and putting them to work in poultry slaughterhouses. Soon, they discovered agencies had also placed kids at SMART Alabama LLC, a parts maker owned by Hyundai.  Children were working long hours, including graveyard shifts, in dangerous conditions. Some were racing to repay human smugglers who had brought them over the border, authorities and migrants said. As a result of the reporting, authorities quickly found and rescued kids from one factory, and employers released other children from similar jobs. Alabama and U.S. agencies launched at least 10 investigations into the hiring practices. A Hyundai supplier and its recruiter have been fined for violating child labor laws. And Hyundai has acknowledged the problem, pledged reforms to remove all child labor from its supply chain, and begun discussions with the U.S. Department of Labor about the violations.   

Lost in America: Our Failed Immigration Policy

Lost in America was a 7-part investigative journalism series published in The Miami Herald that documented and uncovered the then Haitian and Cuban immigrant exodus into Miami and the country’s discriminatory immigration policies. The series exposed cases of illegal detention and mistreatment of the Haitian and Cuban refugees and the differential treatment immigrants from Cuba and Haiti were subjected to viz refugees from other nationalities.