Editor’s note: This article replaces one published by NBC News on April 12, 2023, about a migrant worker at a Kansas slaughterhouse. That article has been withdrawn in light of new information that the migrant is not a minor.
A Guatemalan migrant who claimed he worked as a minor cleaning a slaughterhouse in Kansas by night while attending high school during the day is actually 21, NBC News has learned.
On April 12, NBC News and Noticias Telemundo together reported on the young migrant, identified as Pedro to protect his identity, who was working for Packers Sanitation Services Inc. (PSSI) in a meat processing plant in Dodge City, Kansas.
The young man had told NBC News and the U.S. government that he was 16. Under federal labor law, it is illegal to employ a minor in such a dangerous job.
Days after the reports aired, PSSI sent NBC News a videotaped interview the company conducted with Pedro in which he said he is not a minor. NBC News also asked Pedro to reconfirm his age, and he said it was “hard for me to explain.” NBC News and Noticias Telemundo then traveled to Guatemala and obtained official documentation showing he is 21.
Presenting as a minor at the border made it easier for Pedro to enter the country under current U.S. immigration policies. The U.S. government issued him documentation based on that false information.
In the PSSI interview, when asked why he presented false information at the border, Pedro explained his situation.
“It’s because over there in Guatemala we have a lot of need and we don’t have a lot of money and for that reason.”
He spent three months in a Health and Human Services shelter for underage migrants in Chicago. He attended a high school in Kansas. And a U.S. official says he continues to have an active case, based on the information he provided to cross the border, with HHS.
In NBC News’ and Noticias Telemundo’s original report, Pedro said he presented fraudulent papers claiming he was 18 to get the job at PSSI.
Pedro’s conflicting accounts about his age reflect how at various stages of his journey, from a Guatemalan village to a slaughterhouse in rural Kansas, it was advantageous for him to identify as a minor, while at other times he needed to be an adult.
NBC News and Noticias Telemundo have published a series of articles about minors working for PSSI cleaning slaughterhouses in the Midwest, as well as an article about workers using stolen identities to obtain jobs at PSSI.
A Labor Department investigation that concluded in February found more than 100 minors working for PSSI at various slaughterhouses. PSSI previously signed a consent decree in which it agreed to abide by child labor laws and pay a fine of $1.5 million. PSSI has consistently maintained that any minors working for the company got their jobs by using fake identities and that the company uses the government’s E-verify system to validate employees’ age and work eligibility. The company said it has a “crystal clear” policy of not employing workers under 18.
An attorney representing the company says Pedro was placed on paid suspension pending an investigation following the April 12 NBC News and Noticias Telemundo reports.