What Happened to All Those Turkish H-1Bs Hired by Gulen Charter Schools?

By David North on November 9, 2018

One of the less obvious problems with the H-1B program is its use by some charter high schools and, to a lesser extent, by some visa mills, to bring in substantial numbers of their fellow countrymen when the need for their services appears dubious.

What has happened to these H-1B workers? Are they still in status, doing the work they were hired to do? Or did they use their transient H-1B status to become illegal aliens, albeit white-collar ones?

For example, the charter schools associated with the conservative Islamic cult led by Fethullah Gulen, a self-exiled Turkish cleric now living in the Poconos, have filed hundreds of H-1B applications for teachers of Turkish. There is absolutely no demand for the teaching of Turkish at the high school level, so why should they be granted visas?

There are, however, members of the Gulen cult, or relatives of the cult leaders, who may have few other qualifications but are clearly native speakers of Turkish. The Turks who run the Gulen schools want to facilitate green cards for these specific individuals, and can do so, quite legally, through the H-1B system.

So the teachers of Turkish are brought to the United States, and their salaries, the H-1B fees, and perhaps their travel, are all funded by public school funds.

Meanwhile literally thousands of other Turkish teachers, who work with other subjects, are hired by the charter schools through the H-1B program when unemployed, experienced, and licensed U.S. teachers remain unemployed.

We see a variation of this scheme in the hiring practices of one of the Gulen-related visa mills (i.e., low-standards educational organizations that have nearly 100 percent F-1 foreign students). One such entity, Virginia International University in Fairfax, Va., sought to hire lots of managers and publicists and even one student event planning specialist in the same manner.

While all of this sounds fanciful, it is not, and USCIS has been facilitating such teacher imports for years, if not decades. A Muslim cult, using our immigration laws, and our public school funds, to advance its own exotic cause is both hard to believe, and very real.

So what happens to these teachers of Turkish and other seemingly extraneous workers hired in droves by these institutions four, five, and six years later? Are they doing what their employers said they would do, or have they vanished, perhaps, illegally, into the U.S. work force doing something else?

Let's look at some specific institutions and the number of these questionable applications filed, and then we have a suggestion for how to cope with this situation.

Harmony Science Academy (headquarters: Houston, Texas). This is a conglomerate of many charter high schools in Texas, all affiliated with the Gulen cult. Texas has particularly lax rules regarding charter schools, and the cult has been very active there.

Myvisajobs.com, which we used as the data source for all the listed institutions, reports that, in the years 2012-2018 Harmony sought 480 H-1B slots (and probably secured a third of them). Of these, 94 were for foreign-language teachers; of these, the full job title is known for just one, a Turkish teacher. There is no specificity for the other 93. (Whether USCIS, in the future, will consider an application with a vague job title, like foreign language teacher, is an interesting question.)

Horizon Science Academy (headquarters: Cleveland, Ohio). This is a comparable, Gulen-affiliated organization. Ohio is also a relatively easy place to start charter schools.

Horizon has sought 28 teachers of foreign languages in the years 2011 and 2013-2018 (with data missing for 2012). Of these, one is to teach Spanish and 27 are to teach Turkish. Horizon, unlike Harmony, was specific about what languages were to be taught. Horizon also sought to hire many other H-1B teachers from Turkey.

Virginia International University (VIU), Fairfax, Va. This entity is one of the two Gulen-affiliated universities, and it has a student population that is almost 100 percent on F-1 visas. While the leadership is Turkish, the student body is more cosmopolitan, and there appears to be no effort to provide instruction in the Turkish language.

VIU is a relatively small educational institution and there are disagreements as to the size of the student body. All VIU activities plus a spacious restaurant fit into a single, modest, three- story office building, which has 62,000 feet of floor space according to Fairfax County land records. (The building is about 200 feet wide and 100 feet deep.)

VIU filed for 40 H-1B slots in the years 2012-2018 and, being a university, it can hire as many H-1Bs as it wants without reference to the usual annual ceiling in this program. (This is not true of the charter schools.) Of those sought, only five were for instructors or professors, five were for IT specialists, and 30 were for managers or management support staff. Why an institution of this size should need so many foreign workers in that last category is puzzling.

Northwestern Polytechnic University (NPU), Fremont, Calif. NPU shares many of VIU's qualities, but it is a bit larger, is on the other coast, is run by a Chinese family, and has no known relationship with the Gulen cult. It is perhaps the most prosperous of the nation's visa mills, chalking up an outstanding profit rate: For every dollar it received in tuition (from a 99 percent alien student body) it chalks up 73 cents ($0.73) in profits.

This 73 percent profit ratio is hard to believe, but it is spelled out in its 2016 Form 990 report to the Internal Revenue Service (somehow, IRS regards it as a charity). That form shows that the total assets of the school increased by more than a thumping $60 million during that year, to a total of more than $180 million. None of the increase related to donations.

Meanwhile, it got itself accredited a few years ago with such rampant skullduggery that the news site BuzzFeed wrote thousands of words about that process.

Within this impressively dismal setting, NPU's apparent misuse of the H-1B program, while totally in harmony with its financial and accreditation moves, is relatively modest.

It filed for 23 H-1Bs in the years 2012-2018 and, being a university, it probably got all of them. Of these, only six were for educational professionals, 14 were for IT specialists, and three were for managers. Why an institution of this size should need so many foreign IT specialists is puzzling, particularly regarding its location near Silicon Valley.

Putting it another way, why did an organization dripping with money go to the trouble of filing for these H-1Bs? Was there another motive other than an alleged inability to hire the needed talent in the United States?

Suggestion. Recently the Department of Homeland Security has been issuing a growing number of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) in connection with H-1B applications; would-be employers need to respond to these inquiries before a decision can be made on a pending application.

My thought is to use that time-tested technique to ask these four employers, and others similarly situated, these simple questions:

  1. What are the names of the staff members your entity hired as a result of H-1B in the years 2012-2018.
  2. For each such employee:
    1. Is that person still working for the entity? And what work does that person do?
    2. If still employed, provide the current address and phone number; and
    3. Provide a full set of W-2s for that person for the years employed.

The last request, for the W-2s, should be checked in some cases with the IRS, and will supply interesting information. An organization is probably unlikely to send W-2s to the IRS if the worker is no longer employed, and if it tried to fake them for the RFE, the DHS contact with IRS should indicate a problem. The lack of a W-2 for a year would not automatically indicate illegal status, as an H-1B can move to another H-1B employer, but if that happened DHS should know about it.

The RFE would, then, at little or no government expense, tell the government something about the extent that those hired by these entities are still working for their original employer; a rapid drop-out rate might also give DHS adjudicators something to think about when ruling on subsequent applications. All of this information, in cases where illegal behavior is suspected, should be shared with the appropriate set of law enforcement agencies.

If the large majority of the H-1Bs are still employed and doing the work for which they were hired, or something closely related, then no further action would be needed. If, on the other hand ...