It's not entirely clear why Garland ISD turned an internal investigation into its H1-B visa program over to the feds.
The district's official line was that it "felt obligated" to tell the U.S. Department of Homeland Security based on the "recommendations of third-party legal counsel," which was rather opaque. So was Superintendent Bob Morrison's statement to The Dallas Morning News, that "This is about looking at that process [of recruiting foreign teachers]."
However tight Garland ISD's lips, this much is apparent: You don't call in the feds unless there's a strong indication of wrongdoing, and a lot of teachers in Garland are in danger of having their lives torn apart.
Fox 4 interviewed several of those teachers on Monday, all of them in danger of being deported because of the problems with Garland ISD's H1-B program.
"We haven't done anything wrong," Elizabeth Nino de Rivera told the station. "We were just following the rules."
H1-B, which allows a limited number of foreign workers in certain specialty fields to work in the U.S., is technically a non-immigrant visa, meaning it carries no promise of a green card. But Garland ISD seems to have recruited the teachers with the promise that it would help them obtain permanent residency, and accepted fees to do so.
Harry Jones, the lawyer Garland ISD hired to conduct its investigation, told Fox 4 that the district and the teachers are both victims in a scheme that involved fees that were improperly paid to a law firm. His investigation named three district employees involved in the scheme: Associate Superintendent Gary Reeves, former human resources director Victor Leos, and teacher Paul Ruediger.
Reeves and Ruediger have been placed on leave. Reeves pleaded ignorance in an interview with the Morning News, placing the blame on Leos, who is now retired. A last-ditch ass-covering attempt, perhaps but Leos did do a September 2013 interview with Univision that, in retrospect, seems a bit disingenuous.
"It has to do with the economy," he told the station, explaining why teachers were being notified that their visas weren't being renewed. "Basically their thinking is that why do we need teachers [who have to] apply for permanent residency when there are many people in the United States who do not have a job?"
Reeves, though, would have had to have some knowledge of the H1-B program. After all, Garland ISD has been something of a pioneer in the field. In widely cited victory in 2006, it convinced the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services' Administrative Appeals Office that bilingual-teacher interns qualified as specialty workers eligible for visas under the program, provided they were enrolled in a teacher certification program. The district employs some 260 teachers through the H1-B program, about eight percent of its total teaching staff.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.
Keep the Dallas Observer Free... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Dallas with no paywalls.