Vermonters Are Clever When It Comes to Immigration Rules

By David North on November 16, 2015

When it comes to working with, or perhaps manipulating, the immigration rules, Vermonters are clever, and/or lucky. This is the home state, after all, of the current ranking member and former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.); that's the committee that handles immigration matters.

We know that over the years Vermont has gotten quite substantial inputs of alien capital from the EB-5 immigrant investor program for its ski resorts, with a bare minimum of the scandals that beset that program elsewhere, such as in South Dakota.

While Vermont projects garner scores of millions of dollars from EB-5 investors, those aliens, largely rich Chinese, settle elsewhere in the United States.

Vermont not only does not get the rich EB-5 aliens, it does not get many of the low-income illegal aliens, either. As noted in an earlier posting, there were so few illegal aliens filing under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in the state that Vermont, alone among the 50 states, did not have enough of them to register on Homeland Security tallies.

So Vermont attracts the aliens' money, but not the aliens. Nice work if you can get it.

The state's most recent clever use of the immigration system came to my attention recently, some months after the fact.

The Burlington school district wanted a new superintendent of schools. It had forced out a previous one in 2014 (giving her $225,000 as she left), had hired an interim one from New York State, and wanted to replace him with a more permanent one.

It decided to hire the replacement superintendent from another, larger municipality with the same name — this Burlington being a Toronto suburb — but their choice, Yaw Obeng, is not a U.S. citizen.

So the Burlington (Vt.) school board first sought a temporary O (for outstanding) visa for Mr. Obeng, but USCIS, as it often does with this visa, decided Obeng was not outstanding enough to warrant such a document.

Then, the school board tried to hire him as an H-1B, and filed three different applications with the Labor Department, but apparently none of them popped up in the annual lottery for these slots, which, according to a recent New York Times article is flooded with applications filed by large Indian outsourcing companies, often shouldering aside attempts by smaller outfits to obtain these visas.

It was at this stage that I encountered the school board's efforts. One of their three applications called for a 12-month appointment (highly unusual for such a position) and another called for a three-year stint, presumably an error in the first instance.

The school board, thwarted again, then pulled a trick something like the one that got Wright State University in Ohio in trouble. It went to the University of Vermont and got that institution to use its favored position as a university (there are no ceilings for university-hired H-1Bs) to submit an application for Obeng to become a part-time member of its faculty. Obeng will now teach a course a year at the university in addition to his more-than-full-time job as superintendent.

I find it odd that the government allows part-time employment visas for aliens who, after all, live in the United States on a full-time basis.

According to the Burlington Free-Press, "The school district successfully lobbied the government for a concurrent H-1B visa, which permits Obeng to work full-time as superintendent."

One would suspect that Sen. Leahy's office was involved in these arrangements.

Let's say something positive for the Burlington school district, however. Usually when American school systems hire foreign teachers the motive is to reduce salaries and/or hire people who cannot resign from unhappy teaching duties (such as in some inner city schools), as was the case in Prince George's County (Md.), and East Baton Rouge Parish (La.)

Mr. Obeng's salary is $153,000 a year; so he is not being exploited.