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Pinoy teachers become victims of illegal recruitment in US PDF Print E-mail
Mar 13, 2008 at 08:00 AM
by Rodney J. Jaleco, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau
from ABS-CBN News Online

WASHINGTON D.C. - Six Filipino teachers are braving possible deportation after exposing the activities of an alleged illegal recruiter that highlights the ugly side of the race to fill teaching jobs in America.

The mentors, recruited from all over the Philippines, were supposed to fill vacancies in Virginia and North Carolina.

They agreed to talk to TFC’s Balitang America on condition their faces and names are not shown, although they furnished copies of their formal complaints.

The affidavits have been submitted to the Labor Department and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) through the Philippine Embassy here, as well as the US Justice Department, according to Migrant Heritage Commission executive director Arnedo Valera.

Valera said they have filed charges of human trafficking and illegal recruitment against Isidro Rodriguez of World Goal Corporation in Manila, and the firm’s US affiliate Greenlife Care International based in Fresh Meadows, New York.

They held a dialogue with Ambassador Willy Gaa last week to complain of slow action by Philippine authorities. They alleged that Rodriguez continued to recruit teachers for the US

The teachers allegedly paid Rodriguez from $10,000 to $15,000 each for "processing fees", teaching licenses and their housing and transportation here. They showed photocopies of receipts to prove their allegations.

They were reluctant to go public with their complaints because Rodriguez and his agent in New York, a certain Allan Chen had reportedly threatened to report them to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

"He told me to pack my things because he was calling the police and they will drag me to the airport," one teacher told Balitang America. Valera explained the teachers, already victimized, were being further terrorized by the threats which reportedly included phone calls to their families in the Philippines.

"They have nothing to go back to. They sold properties, borrowed money to pay fees demanded by their recruiter in Manila. If they go home now, they are returning to a mountain of debt and an uncertain future," Valera averred.

Teacher A, who was supposed to work at the Mecklenburg County Public Schools in Virginia, said she was lured by newspaper ads. Teacher B, who was recruited for the Ranaoke City Public Schools also in Virginia, met Rodriguez through a fellow teacher. He left his job in July 2007 because he was told he was all set to leave for the US He managed to leave only last September – by that time, Ranaoke school officials had cancelled his contract because classes had already started. He left anyway, he said, because Rodriguez promised to find him another teaching job when he got here.

Teacher C was hired to fill a vacancy at the Northampton County Schools in North Carolina. "Isidro Rodriguez called me again to tell me to take a leave of absence from work because I will depart anytime," she says in her affidavit. After learning the school had backed out, she said "Rodriguez promised to place us in another school…I paid $10,500 excluding airfare".

Penniless and jobless, Teacher C said she demanded that Rodriguez give back the $1,600 she paid for her housing here (that turned out to be non-existent). He gave her a check for $800. The check bounced.

The tale of deceit went on and on in the teachers’ affidavits.

But Aurora Banas is not a teacher and still found herself victimized. She said she pitied the newly arrived teachers because they had nowhere to go. She opened her home, first to two teachers, then four more, then two more. She’s now unsure just how many of them she sheltered for free, although all of them had paid Rodriguez "housing rentals" before leaving Manila.

But Banas joined the teachers’ complaint when Rodriguez allegedly failed to pay her the $200,000 he borrowed, ostensibly to help other Filipino teachers. The money was Banas’ pension fund that she cashed out early to lend Rodriguez.

Renato Nicolas is another non-teacher. He allegedly paid Rodriguez $15,000 after he reportedly told Nicolas he can bring his two sisters and a brother-in-law, all teachers back home, to work in the US

Balitang America sought a reaction from Allan Chen, allegedly Rodriguez’s US agent but messages left on their listed phone number went unanswered.

"The fact that they were recruited for non-existent jobs here make these acts liable for the crime of human trafficking," Valera explained.

He said the USCIS has already launched an investigation, and the US Department of Justice through the Civil Rights division is evaluating the teachers’ affidavits.

The Fil Am community is supporting the moves because, like it or not, the victimized teachers have become a part of that community when they arrived in America. "It is imperative that these activities are exposed so we can avoid more teachers falling victims," Valera stressed.

He said it was possible there are other recruitment companies engaged in this type of activity, drawn by the profits they could make filling the teacher shortage in parts of the US

An indication of the problem’s magnitude, Valera disclosed they have received up to a hundred feelers from supposed victims. "It’s really up to them if they want come out and tell the public what happened when they were recruited," he averred.


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