Undocumented Filipino teachers in US asked to come forward
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines is urging about 500 undocumented Filipino teachers in the United States to secure immigration relief with the Philippine embassy in Washington DC.
This way, they can also go after their illegal recruiters, Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr said in a statement Wednesday, October 22.
"Our teachers need not be afraid. We are here to help,” Cuisia said.
He recently met 25 Filipino teachers who were victimized by a recruiter named Isidro Rodriguez and his company, Renaissance Staffing Support Center Inc.
“We will not stop until we get Isidro Rodriguez,” Cuisia assured the teachers.
Labor Attache Angel Borja said Rodriguez faces a total of 21 illegal recruitment cases, while 41 recruitment violation cases have been filed against his company.
Rodriguez is on top of the watch list of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, the Anti-Money Laundering Council, and the Bureau of Immigration.
Cases filed against him both in the Philippines and the US range from illegal recruitment, alien smuggling, visa fraud, to human trafficking. (READ: Questions on identity, belonging in 'Documented')
The Philippine embassy in the US said Rodriguez is at large after he was released from detention months ago.
Non-governmental organization Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC) has been providing legal assistance to the teachers.
MHC Executive Director Arnedo Valera said from 2003 to 2007, Rodriguez victimized as many as 1,000 teachers after convincing them of high pay ranging from $10,000 to $15,000.
This is a tempting offer considering that 2013 data from the National Statistical Coordination Board showed that US public school teachers earn 7 to 8 times more than teachers in the Philippines. (READ: INFOGRAPHIC: How much are public school teachers getting?)
But Valera said the jobs offered by Rodriguez in various public schools turned out to be non-existent.
Some of the teachers have since gone back to the Philippines, Valera said, while most remained as undocumented persons in the US so they can provide for their families and pay the loans for their placement fees.
“Although as many as 300 of the teachers have already been issued trafficking visas and can now legally stay and work in the US, most are hesitant to surface because of shame and fear,” he said.
Valera also said, however, that the victims are now coming forward one by one.
In 2010, about 350 Filipino teachers working in Louisiana filed a federal lawsuit against officials of two labor contractors – Los Angeles' Universal Placement International, and PARS International Placement Agency in Manila. The teachers accused them of human trafficking, racketeering, and fraud.
Cuisia said the Philippine embassy will continue to provide consular assistance to the victims, which includes waiving authentication fees and issuing the necessary certification for the teachers’ request for immigration relief with the US Department of Homeland Security.
Borja added the embassy will ask for a process of verification to determine whether the US employment opportunities offered to Filipinos do exist. (READ: An uncertain future for undocumented Fil-Am)
“This is intended to protect our kababayans (compatriots) from other Isidro Rodriguezes out there," he said. – Rappler.com
Teacher writing on blackboard image from Shutterstock