Mixed Messages on Abusing the H-2A and H-2B Migrant Worker Programs

By David North on July 22, 2014

Mixed messages come to us from rural North Carolina about the abuse of two temporary foreign worker programs: H-2A, for farm workers, and H-2B, for non-skilled, non-farm workers.

The messages are:

  1. The Department of Labor occasionally zaps the suspect middlemen in these programs, as it did commendably in this case, and
  2. These middlemen have numerous opportunities to beat the system, exploit alien workers, and displace resident workers. The numbers and range of illegalities in this case are so great that it took the federal grand jury 57 tightly written pages to list and describe all of the violations.

Indicted in this instance were Craig Stanford Eury, Jr., his daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Farrell, and their company, International Labor Management Corporation, all of Vass, a small town in North Carolina. The indictment said Eury collected $1.1 million over three years from his manipulation of these programs. (For the full text of the indictment, see case 1:14-cr-00039-UA in the PACER system of electronic court documents.)

Here is a sampling of the 41 counts in the indictment regarding conspiracy to defraud the U.S. governement:

  • The middlemen fraudulently exaggerated the staffing needs of their clients (rural employers) so that there were more migrants to exploit by assigning them to other employers;
  • The middlemen successfully sought the needlessly early arrival of some of these alien workers, so that they could charge more for rental quarters for the workers than actually needed, as the middlemen controlled the rental quarters as well as the jobs and the visas;
  • They would cause their clients to "create 'winter companies' that could obtain H-2B visas under the pretense that workers were needed for winter seasonal jobs, such as snowmakers. These 'winter companies', however, were actually created for the purpose of obtaining H-2B visas prior to the [statutory] cap being reached and thereby facilitating the admission of alien workers ... in order to work in other spring and summer jobs." Many of these winter workers, largely from tropical climes, had no idea what snowmaking was, and never learned.
  • Again, to outwit the numerical limits for H-2B workers, Eury and his daughter brought in workers on H-2A visas and then illicitly shifted them into H-2B work;
  • They brought the workers into the United States nominally to work for one employer and illicitly shifted them to another employer;
  • To facilitate these manipulations, they used false signatures of their clients on paperwork submitted to the government;
  • And, most significantly, they "instructed client employers how to conduct interviews for U.S. citizen workers in such a manner as to suppress the hiring of U.S. citizen workers, thereby allowing [the firm] to profit from filling the jobs with H-2B workers while depriving U.S. citizen workers of the opportunity to secure those jobs." (Quotations are from the indictment.)

Unfortunately — and this follows a pattern we have seen with ICE-raided visa mills, such as Herguan University — while the main actors are on trial in federal courts, the erring corporation is still allowed to use the same visa programs that the prosecutors and the grand jury say it has abused so badly in the past. With Herguan, it was an F-1 visa scheme for foreign college students.

The Department of Labor should have found some grounds for suspending the International Labor Management Corporation from its programs until the end of the trial and then, assuming a conviction, it should move to terminate the corporation's eligibility permanently. It has not done so.

The indictment was handed down in the Middle District of North Carolina in February, and I missed it at the time. It was called to my attention by the July issue of the always valuable Rural Migration News, published by the University of California-Davis.