Good News: 15 B-1 Russian Engineers Aiming for Boeing, Stopped by CBP

By David North on October 20, 2011

Here's a rare bit of genuine good news on the nonimmigrant worker front: the immigration inspectors at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport turned back 15 Russian engineers that Boeing had wanted to work full time on a visa (B-1) that prohibits such behavior.

With the exploitative H-1B program not as generous as some employers want, several have turned to the B-1 visa for business visitors as a substitute. B-1 visa holders can attend training sessions, go to conferences, and sell stuff but are not supposed to take full-time jobs in the American economy.

This morning's Seattle Times carried the story that the inspectors had questioned the Russians about their plans in this country, and several said that they were coming to work at Boeing as low-wage contractors. They were all put on the next plane headed back to Russia.

Thus no appeals process, no detention, just a fast exit.

I wonder if Boeing had handled things a little more carefully, sending these illicit workers in one at a time, if Customs and Border Protection would have noticed. But Boeing chose to bring them in as a bunch, and that must have raised some eyebrows.

This story is particularly pleasing for two inside-baseball reasons: first, of all the screenings done in the immigration process, such as the review of petitions Stateside and the visa interviews oversees, the inspection process at the ports of entry is the least likely to result in a negative decision for an inappropriate alien.

This is the case because of the heavy traffic of human beings flowing through the airports which makes an automatic positive response so likely. There are stacks of actual human beings waiting to come through the customs lines, with 99-plus percent of them having solid credentials. It is much easier on the decision-maker to slow up a flow of paper to examine a difficult case, than it is to stop individual travelers. Further, turning down a piece of paper is less of an emotional challenge to the decision-maker than telling some living, breathing human being, to his face, that they have to take the next plane back to, say, Russia.

I designed and ran a pilot study for the old INS a couple of decades ago in which we brought in additional inspectors to a sample of ports of entry with the extra people being given all the time they really needed to inspect the traffic. With no time pressures, the pilot team had a much higher incidence of stops than the harried regular staff at the same ports.

So kudos to the inspection team at SEATAC!

Secondly, the Seattle Times story said that a CBP official, John Hullett, called up the union at Boeing, the Society for Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), to ask about the use of B-1s at Boeing. The union said it was all too common.

What is not very common is for DHS to pay that much attention to unions of American workers, so kudos to John Hullett!

Incidentally, I could not tell from the newspaper story whether Boeing's B-1 Russians were going to work on Boeing's B-1 Bomber, but one would hope not.