Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su, whose nomination to the position has been held up in the Senate due to Democratic opposition, struggled to respond to questions by Republican Rep. Jim Banks of Indiana for her record combatting illegal immigrant child labor.
Su appeared before the House Education and Workforce committee Wednesday to testify about the Department of Labor’s priorities for the forthcoming fiscal year, following a subpoena threat from the committee. Banks and GOP members of the committee, however, pressed Su on the Biden administration’s efforts to prevent illegal immigrant children currently in the U.S. from working in dangerous industries, in violation of child labor laws.
“Thousands of children have ended up in punishing jobs across the country, working in slaughterhouses and putting up roofs,” among other occupations, said Banks, who is running for the Senate in that state in 2024, quoting a New York Times investigation into the matter. He added, “Your administration has completely ignored it. What the heck are you doing about it?”
Julie Su has known & agreed to today’s hearing for months. Last Friday, Su told us she couldn’t make it.
The only reason she’s sitting here today is b/c @virginiafoxx threatened to issue a subpoena.
Not a good look. pic.twitter.com/Do9hWaxEAv
— House Committee on Education & the Workforce (@EdWorkforceCmte) June 7, 2023
Su was repeatedly pressed by Banks on the subject in relation to the NYT story, who asked her about why she had been “ignoring this issue.” After stammering in response, she eventually responded that “the stories came out because the Department of Labor was doing our job,” citing an investigation by the department into the matter.
Banks also asked Su whether her department works with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on issues of illegal migrant children working. Su, in response, said that an interagency task force had been created on this issue, but that it “doesn’t include the Department of Homeland Security.”
“Is there a role here for ICE to work with your department to enforce child labor laws?,” Banks asked shortly before his time expired. He later entered into the record a memo of Su, during her time as California’s top labor official, instructing state agencies to avoid working with ICE on enforcing labor laws.
Banks’ line of questioning was echoed by Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman of Wisconsin, who questioned whether Su’s department was contacting parents of illegal migrant children, likely illegal themselves, working in these industries. “When you find somebody, do you call their parents?…When somebody is being taken advantage of, I assume you’d call the parents,” he said.
Su demurred from answering before saying “that’s the responsibility of other agencies, but we do work together. Our task force includes the Department of Homeland Security,” who didn’t clarify later whether it was the same task force she mentioned to Banks. Grotham, separately, pressed Su about comments she made in 2005 saying that “we live in a society that is built on white supremacy and racial subordination,” which she did not recant despite questioning from Grothman.
Su’s nomination to become Labor Secretary has been stalled in the Senate for three months, amid opposition from Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia over her past comments.
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