In line with President Donald Trump’s “America First” campaign promise, US Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta recently announced that they will be more aggressive in their investigation of foreign visa programs that are used by entities in committing fraud and abuse and consequently harming American workers.
Secretary Acosta said that they will work together with the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to further investigate and detect visa fraud.
Last April, the Department of Homeland Security zeroed in on the H-1B program and announced further anti-fraud measures on said program. Under the H-1B visa program, US companies can recruit highly-skilled foreign nationals to fill in gaps when there is a shortage of qualified workers in the country. Critics of the program however have argued that the governing laws for this program is lax and the investigative authority of the Labor Department is restricted and has then resulted in companies replacing US workers with cheap foreign labor.
To combat fraud under this program, USCIS will take a more targeted approach in making site visits across the country and focus on cases where USCIS cannot validate the employer’s basic business information through commercially available data. They will also focus on H-1B dependent employers or those having a high ratio of H-1B workers compared to US workers and employers petitioning for H-1B workers who work off-site at another company or organization’s location.
For their part, the US Department of Labor will vigorously enforce all laws within their jurisdiction to deter fraud in the visa issuance programs. Several divisions under the DOL are made to maximize its tools to enforce labor protection laws while reinforcing civil investigations and making criminal referrals to the Office of the Inspector General.
The department has also begun promoting the hiring of Americans and making sure workers are under safe working environment. They have recently brought a case against G Farms for illegal and life-threatening housing conditions of agricultural workers in Arizona. The department was successful in obtaining a preliminary injunction under the H-2A visa program against the company.
Part of the department’s efforts not only zero in on companies but also lawyers, recruiters, government employees and labor brokers. In fact, even prior to this recent announcement from the DOL, a New York-based health care company owner and her husband, who is an immigration attorney, were sentenced to 24 months of probation and ordered to pay $1 million in forfeiture after being found guilty of conspiring to defraud the H-1B program. Their company, NYC Healthcare Staffing and LHK Consulting filed H-1B petitions for registered nurses. Because registered nurses are not H-1B positions, they falsified their job titles and duties and even work locations and they were able to obtain work visas for over 100 mostly Filipino nurses. They even misled the USCIS to make it appear that they were not a staffing company.
Many more cases have been filed and many more are expected as the DOL vowed to aggressively use criminal referrals to achieve their end.
REUBEN S. SEGURITAN has been practicing law for over 30 years. For further information, you may call him at (212) 695 5281 or log on to his website at www.seguritan.com