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    New US Govt Report Finds Fraud & Abuses Within H2B Visa Program

    The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recently released a report of their investigation into the H2B visa program. The H2B visa is commonly used by American employers to legally sponsor non-agricultural foreign workers to come in the US and work for the employer temporarily. The employer has to file a Form I-129 (Petition for Nonimmigrant Worker), on behalf of the prospective worker. In most instances the employer also needs a Labor certificate from the Department of Labor (DOL). In order to get through all the legal hurdles the employer has to demonstrate that the services of the prospective employee are needed, that there is a shortage of US workers locally to fill that position and that hiring of the foreign worker would not have a detrimental impact on the similarly employed US workers. 

    The GAO report says: "Employers often hire labor recruiters or other intermediaries to assist with the process of obtaining labor certifications and finding foreign workers. GAO was asked to determine if there were examples of recruiters and employers engaging in illegal or fraudulent activity within the H-2B visa program. GAO reviewed recent closed civil and criminal court cases involving H-2B workers, obtained data from Labor (DOL) and USCIS (United States Citizenship & Immigration Services) on H-2B visas issued in fiscal years 2008 and 2009 and in first 6 months of fiscal year 2010, and interviewed advocacy groups that represent H-2B workers in litigation.

    In addition, GAO made undercover calls and site visits to recruiters, posing as H-2B employers and foreign H-2B workers and asked a series of questions related to legal requirements of the program. GAO also visited several H-2B housing and work site locations. Case studies and results of tests and site visits cannot be projected to the entire population of H-2B employers and recruiters. 

    GAO reviewed 10 closed cases over the last 5 years that involved H-2B employers and recruiters that violated various labor laws or settled allegations of violations outside of court. These 10 cases involved diverse employers in different industries with employees in 29 states with violations in areas such as employers failing to pay promised wages, overtime, or both; employers charging H-2B workers exorbitant fees; and employers and recruiters submitting fraudulent documentation to government officials. 

    For example, in one case H-2B workers became indebted to their employer through a series of arbitrary charges. The employer then forced workers to take second jobs at local fast food restaurants to pay these debts.

    GAO personnel found that most recruiters they called or visited posing as prospective H-2B employers and workers did not encourage our undercover agents to violate program rules. Of the 18 recruiters in multiple states we contacted, 15 appropriately did not offer any advice on violating H-2B program rules. However, during three calls, H-2B recruiters did provide suggestions on how to circumvent program rules, such as providing "good excuses" to help "weed out" prospective U.S. workers or recouping costs through "off-the-book" transactions to avoid restrictions on pay deductions."

    Here're some other notable examples from the GAO report: 

    • Hotel owners in South Dakota forced H-2B workers to work in substandard conditions, confiscated workers’ passports, and threatened workers that they would be sent home in a “box” if they disobeyed orders. In 2008, this couple was found guilty on nine counts, including conspiracy, holding people in peonage, making false statements, and visa fraud.  
    • At a construction company in Louisiana, workers from India paid at least $20,000 for H-2B visas to enter the US. The company received total of $1.8 million from these workers but never employed them. The construction company owner pled guilty to conspiracy, and the other conspirators were found guilty of 1 count of conspiracy, 14 counts of encouraging and inducing illegal immigration, and 1 count of money laundering.
    • In Virginia, conspirators fraudulently obtained H-2B certification from Labor for over 3,800 individuals, leased workers to undisclosed businesses not listed on the visa petitions, defrauded the government of $7.4 million in payroll taxes never remitted to the Internal Revenue Service.  
    • In Arkansas, a forestry company failed to pay 2,200 workers the prevailing wages or the overtime for six years by exploiting their lack of knowledge of US laws. 

    GAO further adds: "Additionally, GAO found that H-2B workers contacted during the site visits to their housing locations were generally pleased with their living and working conditions. However, at one location the H-2B workers were afraid to speak with outside individuals for fear of retaliation from their employer.  

    We also visited known housing locations for H-2B seafood processing employees in North Carolina. The employees told our investigators that they were afraid to speak with outside individuals for fear of retaliation from the employer. One employee said that another employee had recently been fired and sent back to their home country for reporting a burglary at their housing location to the police."

    While the issue of illegal immigration has become a lightning rod in this country, the problems associated with legal immigration have largely been ignored. Hundreds of thousands of people migrate to this country following the proper procedure laid down by the law. The process can be expensive, time consuming, draining and in some instances even exploitative. Politicians who take up 'immigration reform', as and when they please depending on which way the political wind is blowing, depending upon the current public opinion polls, need to realize that any 'reform' in the immigration system that solely addresses the illegal immigration will be woefully inadequate in the long run.

    Over and beyond the concern that people most frequently express about legitimizing illegal behavior, from a practical point of view based on the GAO report, what good would really come by just randomly granting illegal immigrants the legal status, if the system of legal immigration is in dire need of reform itself?

    ~ Gauri 

    Reader Comments (1)

    The Gulen Charter schools are guilty of Visa Fraud, their schools Magnolia Science Academy, Horizon Science Academy, Harmony Science Academy and Sonoran Science Academy are bringing foreign teachers without credentials to the USA under h1-b fraud. American Tax payers are footing this bill, you will note that they have more h1-b visas for teachers than the largest school district in the USA (LAUSD)
    At a time when great American Teachers are getting pink slipped the Islamic Gulen Movement is dismantling the American Public School System one state at a time. The Gulen Charter Schools have robbed American Taxpayers of over $1 billion in Educational funds over the span of the last 10 years. Throught the network of Gulen Foundations, and bribes via their interfaith dialogue, they have managed to snow job members of congress, local politics, local religious leaders, and local academia. Free dinners and free trips to Turkey to side step their true agenda which is to dominate and control American Education, politics, interfaith dialog, police, media and military. As Fethullah Gulen has done world wide and in his native Turkey which got him exiled for attempting to overthrow a secular government.
    November 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFrank Moore

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