Lies, schemes and abuse. Labor Brokers charging foreign workers up to $4,000 each in illegal recruitment fees.
REUTERS| Investigative Report by: Megan Twohey, Mica Rosenberg and Ryan McNeill
NEW YORK – Nestor Molina has made a living looking for Honduran workers to pick fruit in Florida. Now, some of the workers he recruited, their lawyers, and the U.S. government are looking for him. Molina, 53, is among the middlemen hired by companies to help bring foreign workers to the United States for temporary jobs.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Reuters found that U.S. regulators do little to ensure that American employers — and the brokers that many of them use — follow through on the promises made to the workers. Today, audits no longer take place; Congress cut funding for them.[/pullquote]
Public attention has focused largely on U.S. employers that exploit foreign workers. But Reuters identified an insidious problem that precedes and can compound the abuses workers face when they arrive in America – labor brokers enlisted by U.S. companies to navigate government bureaucracy, recruit workers, help secure visas, and arrange transportation for those who are hired.
“Until we have the authority to hold U.S. employers accountable when they rely on unscrupulous labor recruiters, our ability to deal with these practices remains limited,” a Department of Labor spokesman said in a statement to Reuters.
In the civil suits, dozens of workers from Honduras say Molina charged them thousands of dollars in recruitment fees for jobs picking strawberries in Florida. Charging recruitment fees violates U.S. law, and workers involved in the lawsuits said they were instructed to say nothing of the payments during their visa interviews with U.S. consular agents.
[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Molina, the suits allege, promised that the workers would be paid well and that the jobs would lead to a benefit that was tantalizing but fictitious: permanent residency in the United States.[/pullquote]
One man said he was told that for a one-time fee of $4,000, he would be assured eight to 10 months of work every year for five years. The salary would be $1,600 per week, and housing would be free. Best of all, at the end of those five years, he would be able to bring his family to America.
“They said your children will be able to study for free paid for by the American government and this was all under a legal program that had been established by Ronald Reagan,” the worked recalled. “Everything was a lie. There was no job, no boss, no company. Nothing,” said the man.
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