Hannah Dreier is one of the best investigative reporters in America — and one of my favorite journalists, of any kind. On Friday morning, we recorded a podcast, here.
For the Associated Press, she corresponded from Venezuela. (She and I podcasted as that country spun out of control.) Then she worked for ProPublica and the Washington Post. In 2019, she won the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. She had investigated “a botched crackdown on the gang MS-13,” to quote her bio.
Now she works for the New York Times and she spent ten and a half months on a story, published on February 25: “Alone and Exploited, Migrant Children Work Brutal Jobs Across the U.S.” The subheading reads, “Arriving in record numbers, they’re ending up in dangerous jobs that violate child labor laws — including in factories that make products for well-known brands like Cheetos and Fruit of the Loom.”
As I say when introducing our new podcast, “this report is long, meticulous, and eye-popping. It ought to occasion changes in America. Frankly — maybe this is the schoolboy in me — I thought of The Jungle, Upton Sinclair’s novel from 1906.”
In her report, Ms. Dreier tells us this: She “spoke with more than 100 migrant child workers in 20 states who described jobs that were grinding them into exhaustion, and fears that they had become trapped in circumstances they never could have imagined.”
“I didn’t get how expensive everything was,” said 13-year-old Jose Vasquez, who works 12-hour shifts, six days a week, at a commercial egg farm in Michigan and lives with his teenage sister. “I’d like to go to school, but then how would I pay rent?”
There is enough in that single passage for an hour of discussion. We spend about 40 minutes on a number of questions: Where are these kids’ parents, if they have them? Do employers know that they are breaking the law — child-labor laws? How can this be happening, right under our noses?
And so on and so forth.
You will be interested in all that Hannah Dreier has to say. She has already won one Pulitzer Prize; I say, hell, give her another. In the past, her reporting has led to policy changes and new laws. This latest reporting will likely do the same. It has already created a big stir. Again, our podcast is here.