Former school administrator in Texas pleads guilty in immigration scheme

The Garland district's former human resources director admits to taking kickbacks to attract bilingual teachers from the Philippines and Latin America.

A former administrator in the Garland (Texas) district has pleaded guilty to his part in a scheme to abuse federal work visas to recruit hundreds of teachers from other countries.

The Dallas Morning News reports that Victor Leos, who was the district's human resources director, has admitted getting kickbacks and other benefits while using H-1B visas to bring bilingual teachers to Garland.

Prosecutors say Leos was approached by recruiters in 2003-04 who specialized in finding specialty-skilled teachers from the Philippines and Latin America.

As part of his plea agreement, Leos has agreed to provide information about his participation in the scheme. He also promised to pay $317,483 in restitution to the district.

The law states that an H-1B visa is to be used only when an employer has exhausted all other means of filling a vacancy with an American citizen.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency announced last month that it was cracking down on abuse of the visas. The Justice Department also warned employers this month and called misuse of the process a means of discriminating against U.S. workers.

As the Hispanic population grew in Texas, schools faced a shortage of bilingual teachers. But as more homegrown bilingual teachers were certified, the Garland district instead accelerated its use of the visas.

In April 2014, Garland said 280 employees had come to the district with H-1B visas. Of those, 80 had achieved permanent resident status.

Federal law requires the sponsoring organization, the Garland district in this case, to cover the costs of H-1B visas. In all, those costs could reach $20,000 per teacher.

But the Garland teachers say they paid their own fees by writing checks to a law firm and other co-conspirators, as directed by Leos.

Court documents indicate that in addition to Leos, there are also "unnamed conspirators" involved in the case. But the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment as to whether anyone else besides Leos has been charged.

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