DHS agents have interviewed children who worked cleaning a JBS Foods slaughterhouse in Grand Island, Nebraska, the officials say.
There is no indication DHS is investigating the company that hired the children, Packers Sanitation Services Inc. (PSSI), for human trafficking. 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.
In December, as a result of an investigation by the Labor Department and a civil suit filed against the company by the government, PSSI agreed to a consent order with the department and agreed to abide by child labor laws. Labor investigators had found a total of 50 children working for PSSI in at least five locations, including the Grand Island plant and a second JBS Foods plant in Worthington, Minnesota.
The children who worked for PSSI attended school during the day and worked overnight facing dangerous conditions, with some as young as 13 and 14 found to have chemical burns on their hands from exposure to strong cleaning chemicals, according to court documents the government filed in its lawsuit against PSSI and a local police report previously obtained and reported by NBC News.
In December 2023, following a Department of Labor (DOL) investigation and a lawsuit filed against PSSI by the government, authorities argued that the company violated the Fair Labor Standards Act, which bans oppressive child labor and prohibits minors from engaging in any hazardous employment.
DHS’s Office of Homeland Security Investigations’ inquiry into possible human trafficking was triggered by the large number of immigrant children involved in the case.