Off in a small corner of the immigration policy world there is an intriguing side-show – it is a battle which pits one group of conservatives against another in a fascinating contest that the mainstream media has all but ignored.
In one corner there is a player as reactionary as they come, the Islamic president/dictator of Turkey; in the other is a conservative Islamic religious leader, another Turk, and his allies in the American charter school movement.
Turkey's authoritarian's ruler is Recep Erdogan; he is at loggerheads with his former ally, Fethullah Gulen, the self-exiled leader of an Islamic cult that is devoted to undoing the reforms of modern Turkey's George Washington, Kamal Ataturk. Gulen's followers in the U.S. have created a series of charter schools which use public school moneys, via staff extortions, to support the cult's activities. The Gulen schools, which have also used political contributions to shore up their position, are charters, and, as such, are sheltered by conservatives promoting charters generally. Erdogan has said that he wants Gulen extradited from Pennsylvania to Turkey because of his alleged ties to the failed coup in Turkey.
Why is this of any interest to immigration policy types?
In spite of the presence of tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of unemployed U.S.-trained teachers, Gulen's schools continue to use local tax funds to secure H-1B visas for, and to provide wages for, teachers from Turkey, including in a few cases English teachers, as we have reported previously.
Why are the Gulen schools so interested in recruiting Turkish teachers (and often paying them more than U.S. teachers in the same schools)? To some extent it is a Tammany Hall sort of nepotism – let's use public funds to help our landsmen – but there is another apparent motive. According to a long, detailed, and stinging report by LA Weekly, there is a highly organized, systematic shake-down of Turkish teachers to benefit Gulen cult organizations. The name of one of Gulen's collectors in one of his school systems, the amounts raised, and their transportation, in cash, to cult meetings are all spelled out in detail.
While efforts have been made in Georgia and in southern California to shut down some of the Gulen schools (for their hiring and financing malpractices), no one has been indicted, at least not yet.
Meanwhile, the Gulen schools have been investigated by the FBI for years, newspapers have printed multiple exposes, a state auditor caught a Gulen operation in Oklahoma obtaining more than $4 million via grossly inflated rent charges from public funds, and an excellent documentary film, "Killing Ed," has been produced on all this corruption.
Why, with all this evidence, has no one been charged with anything?
I asked this question of Robert Amsterdam, a Canadian lawyer retained by the government of Turkey to look into these matters; he said he was puzzled too, and suggested that (1) charter schools have a lot of support, particularly from conservatives, and (2) maybe the CIA was discouraging any federal action.
In addition, I think there may be a hesitation in some journalistic circles (a whiff of political correctness, if you will) to examine a system which relates to a particular nationality, that of the Turks.
Further, I think the facts are so hard to believe -- U.S. public school moneys being used to fund intra-Islamic squabbles in Turkey – that reporters are reluctant to tackle them, valid though they appear to be.
Change Coming? All of this may be about to change because of one of President-elect Trump's appointments. According to the Daily Caller:
An intelligence consulting firm founded by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Donald Trump's top military adviser, was recently hired as a lobbyist by an obscure Dutch company with ties to Turkey's government and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Further, we know that President Erdogan has joined Donald Trump at one or more hotel opening ceremonies in Turkey; this was well before the presidential campaign. So Gen. Flynn, who is known to be opposed to Gulen, and who is soon to be the National Security Adviser to the President, might well let it be known in government circles that he has no opposition at all to Gulen school administrators being indicted.
That, combined with the wealth of evidence on these schools' finances, might just change matters.