An Illegal Visa Double Play: J-1 to B-2 to H-2B

By David North on April 23, 2021

A recent (and welcome) federal indictment of both employers and their agents charged with hiring illegal aliens carries with it memories of Tinker, Evers, and Chance, the double play trio of the last century.

The bad guys in this story took foreign workers who were doing low-level work in hotels as State Department-approved J-1 exchange visitors (a matter I will return to), then filed fraudulent B-2 (tourist) visa applications for them while waiting for H-2B visas, all while the agents were charging the cooks and housekeepers $650 each to complete those B-2 applications.

Most of us know that an alien can’t work legally on a B-2 tourist visa, but the hotel workers were not told that, and the agents and the employers apparently did not mind.

Another element of this story is that the investigation apparently took nearly four years to complete before the indictments were handed down in the Federal District Court of Southern Georgia. I get a sense, in this case and others, of some prosecutors wanting to be absolutely sure that they will win this case, rather than moving on to new ones.

There should be a quicker way to bring employers of illegal aliens to justice.

There is a Law360 report on the indictment, as well as the PACER file (it is case 2:21-cr-00018-LGW-BWC), with the “cr” standing for criminal.

The main corporate players are Regal Hospitality Solutions, LLC, an employment agency in Louisiana, and its recruiting partner, Educational World, Inc., a Florida entity. Some of Regal’s clients were hotels on swish St. Simons Island, Ga. Of the nine individuals indicted, seven worked for Regal and two for Educational World.

They had a number of schemes for hiring illegal alien workers, but the primary one appears to be the double play just noted. Foreign workers, finding their J-1 visas about to expire and not wanting to leave the country, turned to Educational World for assistance with their status problems. Then the firm filed B-2 visa applications for them, never mentioning work, saying that the applicants wanted to be tourists, while also filing H-2B petitions for the same people. The aliens, either not knowing that they could not work with a tourist visa, or accepting the situation — that’s not clear from the 40-page indictment — proceeded to work illegally for Regal’s clients.

None of the foreign workers were indicted; their names appeared only as initials. It is possible that some were deported, but that is not mentioned in the indictment.

The case, though it does not specify the wages and working conditions of the J-1 workers, raises an interesting question: Why does the State Department have an exchange program that produces (presumably low-cost) workers for hotels and restaurants? Similarly, why does it keep the Summer Work Travel program that was so thoroughly discredited by a series of exposes by my colleague Jerry Kammer?

The State Department’s various foreign worker programs, all supposedly offering useful international exchanges, all operate without a U.S.-based field staff to supervise them, and are even more exploitative than those run by the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security. But they are beloved by the corporations that use them and ignored by the press.