A Guam employer, using the H-2B foreign worker program, has just been caught in a quadruple abuse scheme.
Were there such a thing, he would have won the title of World Champion Ignoble Employer, hands down.
The employer's name is Shui Cheng (aka Steven Wang). He is in construction, a booming business on Guam because of the U.S. military build-up there. He managed, all at once, to:
- break the U.S. labor and immigration laws;
- exploit and abuse his countrymen;
- cheat legal workers out of available jobs; and
- hide his ill-gotten gains via money laundering.
Unfortunately, as recent history tells us, the U.S. islands, particularly those in the Pacific, are extremely vulnerable to this kind of abuse, for a number of reasons:
- usually those exploited are of a different ethnicity than that of the local power structure, and the Civil Rights Revolution never really extended to Samoa, Saipan, or Guam;
- the only civil servants who care about such things are the feds, and there are not many of them;
- unions are almost nonexistent and
- while the private bar rallies to the defense of abused, or allegedly abused, Blacks and Hispanics on the Mainland (and in Hawaii), there is nothing comparable in the island territories for, say the Chinese, such as the people exploited in this case, and in the now happily closed, Saipan garment factories.
The investigation was conducted by ICE and IRS, and is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney for Guam and the Northern Mariana (Saipan) Islands. These feds have indicted Mr. Cheng for 63 counts of harboring illegal aliens, 32 counts of money laundering, 15 counts of visa fraud, and 13 of mail fraud, according to the ICE press release.
Mr. Cheng's pattern was to recruit countrymen in China, telling them that they would be paid about $11 an hour; he would then pay them half that, work them 70 hours a week, and charge them, illegally, $1,000 a month for "expenses" during their first ten months on the island according to the indictment on the U.S. judiciary's website, PACER. He then used illegal financial transactions to hide and transfer the profits.
Further Cheng's maneuvers also prevented legally resident workers from working in his construction business and depressed wage levels in his part of the industry.
Needless to say, ICE and its allies are to be commended for digging to the bottom of this ugly scam.
While immigration to Guam has always been under the Immigration and Nationality Act, immigration to American Samoa is controlled by the lax local government there. In 2008 Congress changed the law that previously allowed the Jack Abramoff-hiring local government of the Marianas to run its own immigration policies, a situation that permitted sweatshops to flourish there in the 1990s. For more on the long-overdue inclusion of the Marianas under the INA, see an earlier blog of mine.
Puerto Rico – which immigrants shun – and the U.S. Virgin Islands have always been under the INA.