DALLAS, TX — What started out as a dream to come to America and have a better life has turned into a nightmare for about 70 Filipino teachers, who were recruited from the Philippines by the Garland School District.
They were among 300 foreign teachers hired by the Garland ISD beginning 2005 through a visa program later found to be fraudulent.
They were promised jobs and green cards, and were shocked to find those never existed after they arrived in the U.S.
“Walang binigay ba tulong ang garland independent school district na employer ko. Upang tulungan ang sitwasyon na ito na itama yung mali na ginawa nila na may roong fraudulent activity sa pinitisyon nila sa akin at dahil doon, na revoke ang aking visa at na -deny ang aking application for permanent residency,” said Adelaida Legaspi.
The perpetrator in this scheme — the district’s former human resources director, Victor Leos — has been convicted of visa fraud and sentenced to two years in federal prison.
The victims were forced to pay in excess of $15,000 in recruitment and legal processing fees.
He also made them live in cramped rooms in his stepson’s house, and charged them $2,400 a month — well above the market rate.
For his Filipino victims, the devastating impacts are long-lasting: revocation of status, unemployment, financial hardship, family separation and health problems.
“The denial of my permanent residency application has greatly impacted our family. The inability to work has resulted in severer financial hardships. We were forced to sell our house to provide for daily needs.”
Community groups such as the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns have come to the aid of the Filipino teachers.
“We are doing this forum to seek support from the community and put pressure on GISD to act on the demands of the teachers and assist them.”
“The major concern of these people who are victims is they don’t know they are victims. They think they are part of the situation and they caused it themselves. So they don’t want to come out because they think they will be prosecuted too.”
The Garland ISD condemned the extent of the Leos’ illegal and unauthorized actions and claimed the district fully cooperated with authorities to seek justice for the affected teachers.
But the victims claimed they never got any concrete support from the district.
They are also seeking help from the Philippine government and from legal experts to see if they qualify for trafficking visas.