22 June 2014

Don't Waste Public Money for Teachers' Case in US

PHL Teachers in US
Recent news reports from the United States says that an estimated 150 foreign teachers, composed mostly of Filipinos, have been notified by the Maryland’s Prince George’s Country school system that it has no plans to sponsor temporary work visas or permanent residency at the end of the current school term.

This means that these teachers may have to leave when their visas expire around August 2014.

The decision, contained in letters sent to the affected teachers, comes on the heels of a dispute between the Prince George's school system and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) over county violations of labor laws.

The report says that in 2011, the Labor Department fine the school system US$ 1.7 million and forced it to pay US$ 4.2 million in back wages to 1,044 foreign teachers because the teachers paid fees that they shouldn’t have.

The foreign teachers were among more than 1,000 highly qualified teachers recruited mostly from the Philippines since 2004 to meet the shortage of teachers in math, science and for students with special needs.

Community leader Bing Branigin of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations said the majority of the more than 100 Filipino teachers want to continue working in U.S. and are exhausting all means to be able to stay legally and find new work.

"Many of the teachers have brought their families with them, some have bought houses and almost all have grown roots in their respective communities," Branigin said by phone. "So, for most of them, going back to the Philippines seems to be the last option.

Consul Elmer Cato, spokesman of the Philippine embassy in Washington DC, said they have reached out to the teachers, assuring them embassy’s readiness to help the distressed in whatever ways possible.

Cato said that the closely-knit Filipino American community has been extending moral and other support, finding schools in and out-of-state that would be willing to hire teachers facing dislocation.

However, some netizens criticized this move by the embassy officials. They argued that Philippine government should not spend any of the taxpayer's money to defer immigration actions against the affected teachers. The money would be better spent in helping teachers who are working in the Philippine countryside and those that are in Typhoon-hit areas.

Also, there is no value-added in helping these teachers. Many of them are already permanent residents of the United States and have found future employers in other states like the Carolina and West Virginia. They brought their families there, bought properties there and even acted as if they were already Americans even if they have yet to receive Green card approval. So why in the world are we investing on them?

If they claim that they are victims of human trafficking and were just reporting violations, then they should freely accept that they should be returned to where they were before all these things happened - the Philippines. If they don't have any intention of accepting their fate in their land of birth, then it is safe to assume that they are just trying to milk the Embassy coffers to further their own selfish interest of living a good life in the United States.

Besides, the Philippine government should recognize that Prince George’s and other school districts’ decision not to renew visas for math, science and special education positions marked a significant change in its hiring policy. This was evident when the federal government barred county schools from issuing visas in 2012, letting them keep teachers who had visas but preventing them from hiring new ones or extending others’ agreements.