The Dept. of Homeland Security is investigating whether 50 children — some as young as 13 — who were performing third-shift sanitation at JBS Foods plants were victims of human trafficking, according a story exclusive to NBC News. DHS appears to be picking up where an earlier Dept. of Labor investigation left off.
However, there was no indication DHS is investigating the company that hired the children, Packers Sanitation Services Inc. (PSSI), which was identified in earlier stories. Nor did the report implicate JBS, although two of the meat company’s plants -- in Grand Island, Neb., and Worthington, Minn. -- were mentioned.
PSSI admitted in court filings it hired the children but attributed it to “rogue individuals” who presented fake identification with Social Security numbers that were verified by the federal government’s E-Verify system, according to NBC. “Instead, said two DHS officials, DHS is investigating to rule out the possibility that outside traffickers may have forced children to work for PSSI and profited off their labor,” said the report.
In December we reported PSSI agreed to hire an outside compliance officer and take other steps to ensure that it’s not using underage workers, following an agreement with the Dept. of Labor. DOL found the third-party cleaning service had hired at least 31 individuals between 13 and 17 years old.
The NBC report raised that number to 50 children working for PSSI in at least five locations.
Our earlier report also mentioned plants owned by George’s Inc. and Greater Omaha Packing Co.