Media Covers Two Obscure Immigration Topics, with Mixed Results

NYT misses on imported shepherds, while UK tabloid gets it on marriage fraud

By David North on September 27, 2022

In the last few days, major newspapers have published long articles about obscure immigration streams, but with mixed results.

The article with the most States-side readership, in the New York Times on September 23, muffed an opportunity to reveal the comprehensive exploitation in the H-2A sheepherders’ program, while an excellent piece on marriage-related immigration fraud in the U.S. appeared in London’s Daily Mail, which was seen by relatively few on this side of the pond.

The full-page piece in the Times was titled “Alone in a New World with Vast Open Space, and Sheep: Latin American sheepherders, here on work visas, do the same nomadic work that European immigrants did before them. But do they have a shot at the American dream?” and reflected the content of the article, with an emphasis on the outdoor life of these workers, but with a passing note that few of them can manage to move from nonimmigrant to immigrant status.

What was missing from the article was any discussion of the U.S. government’s key and dual roles in the exploitation of these workers, who are on duty 24 hours a day, but who are paid all of $1,807.23 a month (at the minimum) for an artificial 48-hour week. They live in tents or sometimes, if lucky, house trailers, working alone for weeks if not months on end as they move the sheep from mountain pasture to mountain pasture. Alone, except for their dogs.

These workers are separated from their Latin American families for three years at a time, getting a three-month vacation after the passage of those years. Annual vacations are a no-no, because that would run up the ranchers’ costs.

This is an essentially medieval industry practice that persists in the American West only because the federal government makes it possible through two policy decisions:

  1. It allows the ranchers to import some 2,000 foreign workers, who work under miserable conditions for the slimmest of wages.
  2. It sets the fees for grazing on public land low enough to make the business thrive.

None of these points were made by the Times reporter, Miriam Jordan, who did add this ironic note:

The only sheepherders [the informant] knows who eventually got U.S. residency were mojado [moistened ones], or undocumented who walked off the job, worked illegally elsewhere and eventually married an American, which led to citizenship.

Speaking of marrying for legal status in the U.S., that was the subject of a long, useful article in London’s Daily Mail (with a circulation about 1.2 million) written by James Reinl.

Using a series of bullet points, in the British tabloid style, it opened this way:

  • The Violence Against Women Act helps immigrant victims of domestic violence escape from abusive partners
  • It also creates a loophole that gives scammers an easy route to a Green Card
  • By falsely claiming they were victims of abuse, the foreign spouse[s] can finish their Green Card process alone
  • Hundreds or thousands cheat the system this way every year, experts say
  • One marriage fraud victim told Daily he was duped by a “magical” whirlwind romance with handsome foreigner.

Disclosure: I was one of the “experts” Reinl consulted in his research.

Reinl had an angle that I have not seen in years writing about marriage-related immigration fraud: The alien fraudster in the last bulleted item was a male, described as “buff”, in a same-sex marriage.

Would that his article had the same U.S. readership as the one on sheepherders!