23 teachers are facing deportation from Garland Independent School District in Texas because the school incorrectly filed their visas.
The school district is being investigated by federal authorities for the botched H-1B temporary work visas. It had recruited 260 teachers from Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela around six years ago to help teach the area’s swelling Spanish-speaking population.
The visa mistake originated in the law firm that the district hired to take care of the visas, which has since been fired. The firm asked the teachers to cover the costs of the visas themselves, around $20,000 each, a violation of visa requirements that mandate that the sponsoring organization must pay for the visas.
The teachers were told that once their six-year temporary work visas expired, they would be granted permanent residency. But then, their applications were denied.
“We have been doing a good job,” Bernardo Montes-Rodriguez, 41, a teacher at one of the district’s elementary academies, told the Dallas Morning News. “Now, the district is giving another message. Now, ‘We’re not going to do it. We’re just going to send them back to their countries.’”
Elizabeth Niño de Rivera, 39, said she and the others “did what they told us” when she was recruited in 2008 at a job fair in Monterrey, Mexico. They were told to pay the attorneys directly for the costs of the visa.
“Totally we were naïve,” Marcano said. “I came to my employer that I trusted completely. The lawyer said we were going to have a long-term relationship and to apply for the H-1B visa.”
Harry Jones, a lawyer hired by the school district to investigate, found that the fees had not been paid by the correct party.
"The District and some of its employee are victims of those irregularities," Jones said to FOX 4."It looks like somebody was getting the fees that should not have been. That's what we're investigating."
While Superintendent Bob Morrison said the school is there to “support [the teachers] through this process,” the teachers have emails confirming that while they will be reimbursed for the original costs, their visas will not be extended.
“They told me, 'We are not extending your visa,'" said Montes-Rodrigues. "'We are not fulfilling your process. You're done. Thank you. Bye, bye.'"