Filipino Teachers’ Broken American Dream


By Amelia Pang
WASHINGTON—Over 1,000 Filipino teachers have come to work in Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) in Maryland. Many were recruited by the school board while in the Philippines, with promises of a better life.

“The irony is my life has not gotten better, it has gotten worse,” said a Filipino PG County teacher who requested to remain anonymous to avoid risk of losing her job.

This teacher sold her property, car, and “borrowed money left and right” in the Philippines in order to move with her immediate family to the United States. “It took us two years to pay off our debt of $13,500. But on our third year, we found out the schools could not renew our visas and we may not get a green card like it was promised,” she said.

This past April, the Department of Labor (DOL) found that “PGCPS illegally reduced the wages of 1,044 foreign teachers hired under the H-1B program by requiring the payment of $4,224,146 in fees.”

The work visa fees were supposed to be paid for by the school board. Instead, they were charged to the international teachers.

In consequence, the DOL ordered PGCPS to pay $1.7 million in penalties and $4.2 million of wages back to the foreign teachers—mostly Filipinos. They were also debarred from extending visas or requesting permanent residency for any international teacher under their work visa program.

It has been seven months, but the teachers have yet to receive any compensation.

The Filipino teachers are unsure when they will receive their payments. “We could really use the money to start over in another state,” said the teacher. They say it would be more reasonable to debar PGCPS after 2014, when “all those they hired can get their green card like it was promised to us.”

“I still believe we are second-class citizens here; no matter how much we might do, nothing will happen. So many appeals done by the teachers union and DOL regarding the decision to debar PG, but nothing happened…” she said.

The teachers union tried to appeal the decision to debar PGCPS, but the common opinion among the Filipino teachers is “No matter how much we do nothing will change because we are second-class citizens,” she said.

Many could not renew their visas, and have already returned to the Philippines. Some have gone to other states to work under a new employment-based visa program.

“They tell us there are 50 states, plenty of employment opportunities, but it is not easy to find a new job,” she said. Those unable to renew their visas will have to return to the Philippines and “start over from square one … Many of us sold everything to come here … Many bought houses and cars in the U.S.”

The school board had an open forum meeting with the effected teachers after the ruling was made. According to the teacher, the school board claims green cards are not guaranteed because there is no official document on paper promising permanent residency.

“We just believed them when they said they promised. We didn’t think of getting it on paper,” the Filipino teacher said.

It is predicted that by the end of this year, visas of 800 Filipino teachers will expire.
The P.G County School Board

DOL Spokeswoman Elizabeth Alexander said the school board “refused to acknowledge” the $4.2 million back wages with due seriousness, according to the Alliance of Business Immigration Lawyers (ABIL).
According to PGCPS spokesperson Briant Coleman, the schools were unaware of any violations after the settlement.

“When we were notified by the Department of Labor that we were doing something that was not in accordance with regulations, we corrected it immediately and paid the fees ever since,” Coleman said.
When asked where the money went since the Filipino teachers have not received any, Coleman said the DOL is handling the money.

According to Coleman, the school board did not realize the visa fees were not supposed to be paid by the teachers. Yet, due to “the current state of our shrinking school budget and mounting legal fees, we determined that we simply could not afford to continue to operate this program.”

The schools have tried their best to prevent legal fees from effecting students. So far, the school board has not cut any programs.

“PGCPS did everything possible to retain these excellent and valued employees,” said Coleman.

Find more like this: Education, OFW

Comments

  1. RChavez says:

    Recession has really affected economic opportunities overseas. Starting over again from square one should now teach us to see the world differently. Experts affirm that we are in a great economic transition that most people are still unaware. We have a lot to catch up since the advent of the information/digital age. They key is to have an open mind and constantly learning new skills suitable for the new economy.

    Grace and peace!

  2. John Gault says:

    “I still believe we are second-class citizens here…”

    But you’re not a citizen there at all, you’re just a foreigner!

    I don’t see what you’re complaining about anyway, since, as an American living in the Philippines, I see that you’re treated FAR BETTER in America than I am being treated by your government and Pinoys here in the Philippines.

    * In America you Pinoys can buy land, in the Philippines we Americans can’t.
    * In America you Pinoys can own your own home (“Many bought houses and cars in the U.S.”), in the Philippines we Americans can’t (it can only be in our asawa’s name).
    * In America you Pinoys can have a job, in the Philippines we Americans can’t.
    * In America you Pinoys can start a business, in the Philippines we Americans can’t (it has to be Filipino owned).
    * In America you Pinoys can walk down the street without being harassed by panhandlers, in the Philippines we Americans can’t (they think we shit pera!).
    * In America you Pinoys can walk down the street without being propositioned by prostitutes, in the Philippines we Americans can’t (they think we shit pera!).
    * In America you Pinoys can do business without being swindled by criminals and corrupt storekeepers, in the Philippines we Americans can’t (they think we shit pera!).
    * In America you Pinoys can go about your business without being blamed for the bad economy there, in the Philippines we Americans can’t – Pinoys here seem to thing we’re responsible for their self-inflicted poverty and government-caused inflation.
    * In America you Pinoys are treated with respect, in the Philippines we Americans are treated like a source of free money and property that Pinoys can just take.
    * In America you Pinoys are treated with respect – people say things like “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” to you, in the Philippines we Americans are treated badly – people shout RUDE comments like “Hey Joe!”, or “Hey, _MAN_!”, and “Give me money, Joe!”, and the worst: “Why don’t you go back to America, we don’t want you here, only your money.” (Yes, I’m often told that by Philippinos. Bastos ka!)

    ———–
    “They tell us there are 50 states, plenty of employment opportunities, but it is not easy to find a new job,”

    Who are “they”? All you had to do was watch the American news on cable TV, and read the Internet stories bout how the unemployment rate in America is now worse that it was during the Great Depression of the 1920’s-1930’s, and you would have known that it’s not easy to find jobs. As a teacher, you should have known the importance of `doing your homework’ before committing yourself, but you didn’t, did you? You just “believed” that it would be better in America, not realizing that for the first time in your life you’d have to work your ass off just to survive.

    ———–
    “The irony is my life has not gotten better, it has gotten worse,”
    This teacher sold her property, car, and “borrowed money left and right” in the Philippines in order to move with her immediate family to the United States.
    “… Many bought houses and cars in the U.S.”
    “Those unable to renew their visas will have to return to the Philippines and start over”

    Well, duh! If you can’t renew your visa or get a green card, then you just have to go back where you came from. If I can’t renew my visa or get permanent residency here in the Philippines, the same will happen to me. So stop whining, nobody twisted your arm and forced you to sell off everything you had on a false hope and a false perception of alleged “promises” from a school board. After all, your experiences with your own government should have taught you not to trust government, any government – since they all lie. And the funniest part is that the “promises” those teachers claim to have gotten didn’t even come from government, they came from a local school board!

    Of course, that assumes you really were “promised” anything at all. Do you have a contract that says so? I doubt it. More likely you were given a pep-talk and assumed that when you were being given an opportunity you probably just assumed that `opportunity’ was a synonym for `promise’ or `guarantee’.

    Remember the words of my mentor Robert J. Ringer:
    “With a written contract you have almost half a prayer,
    but with an oral promise all you have is hot air!”

    Grow up already.

  3. Not John Gault says:

    You had a mentor? Seriously?

    You can’t do all that in the Philippines because our contitution wanted to protect us from exploitive governments that are like yours. Its the same exploitation you are currently doing to Iraq and Afghanistan, shoving the American dream down their throats and then taking everything they have.

    To us you look like you shit money because thats the image you portray in front of us when you walk our streets.

    You tell us to grow up? How can we grow up if you always take advantage of us? We see you as partners and yet you treat us like fuckbuddies?

    And still you take offense that we buy houses and cars? Why is that? You want us to live under bridges and maybe walk to and from our destination so that you will see yourself more mightier than us?

    Its your exploitative ways that turn us against you. Thats why bad Americans like you are disrespected by many people around the globe and not just by Filipinos.

    So you’ve met bad Filipinos eh? I think you only meet those kinds of Filipinos in red light districts, maybe you went whoring? Does your wife know?.

    I’ve met bad Americans here too especially those who discriminate against native Americans, Latinos, Blacks, Asians blaming them for all the ills this country is experiencing.

    Yep at least we can go back where we came from, how about you? Where will you go when China overtakes you?

    And you are right? when we are promised orally by bad Americans we should not trust any word they say.
    American Dream? More like American Illusion.

    Hey Joe! We work our ass off! How about you? Is your house and car paid yet? How about your student loans? are they paid already?

    Sorry to the good Americans, those who help us be better.

    John Gault’s thinking is in recession.

    One more thing “GROW UP AND GO TEACH IN THE GHETTOS”!

  4. JR Belmonte says:

    All, if not, some Filipinos do think that a part of being a Filipino is being an American. We we’re colonized by US for almost half a century, if I’m not mistaken. They have imparted a lot of things to us including their culture, way of life, attitude and character up to the extent that we immitate them. What we are now is due to influence of other countries that invaded us such as USA. If an American will say bad things to Filipinos, they need to understand first that they are part of us – what we are now is because of them. Bad mouthing Filipinos is bad mouthing yourself and your own people as well. If you don’t believe to what I’m saying, then start reading our books and start learning our history, and yours too. Americans colonized us because of their ambitions and national and global interests. They took advantage of the natural wealth of the Philippines, our workforce and our geographical location in Asia. As a result, it gave America the fame, glory and the power it’s longing and dreaming for. On the other hand, we Filipinos do work and migrate to US because of our ambition and interest as well (though focused primarily to family and not national interest). As a result, there are almost 4 million Filipinos living in America and they’re sending their money back to the Philippines that help boost our economy. So, I don’t see US an enemy country, we are dependent to one another. So everytime I read posts or comments that Filipinos are pitting Americans and vice versa, I feel that my own people are pitting each other. I understand the point of John Gault, however, the real issue here is not the status of the Filipino teacher working in USA. So what if they are green card holders or just foreigners working in US? The problem here is the policy and the system being used and implemented by the employer in US (it shows lack of security and assurances to their employees). American youths are the ones benefiting first from these Filipino teachers, so, US government should and must secure the welfare, living and safety of these people! On the other hand, we also blame the lack of available jobs offered/created by the Philippine government to these teachers to prevent them from going abroad. Let’s focus on the resolution of the problem and move forward, we’re educated, civilized and peace loving citizens…. we are not China.

  5. yajalgo says:

    Thanks for those comments,@John Gault I understand your point,Jr Belmonte I agree with you.

  6. piosky lamar says:

    you shit john gault,you bam

  7. Roger Balmonte says:

    tsk..tsk..tsk..

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