Cablegate: H2b Visas: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Published: Thu 1 Dec 2005 10:10 AM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REFS: A) Brasilia 936
B) Brasilia 2240
SUMMARY -------
1. (U) As noted in Ref A, Brazil has seen a dramatic rise in temporary work visas (H2B) in the last year. The Sao Paulo applicants generally fall into three categories:
1) young, educated Brazilians heading to resorts, ski areas and Indian casinos for several months to make some money (the good),
2) relatives and friends of Brazilians in the U.S. looking to work for landscapers, laundries, fish markets and other small businesses, predominantly in the Northeastern United States (the bad), and
3) unqualified intending immigrants who pay $3,000 USD and up to job brokers for a chance to enter the U.S. (the ugly). The first group is mostly made up of young people from middle class families looking to make money and improve their English. The second group poses greater risks because many previously issued applicants for the same employers have not returned, making it difficult for prospective employees to overcome Section 214b of the INA. The third group is mostly made up of poor, desperate people who borrowed money to pay outrageously high brokerage fees.
2.(SBU) From January to November 28, 2005, Sao Paulo interviewed 1,515 H2B cases, almost 200% more than for the same period in 2004. Refusal rates increased from 30% in 2004 to 49% in 2005. While Brazil, given its distance, has not traditionally sent large numbers of temporary workers to the United States, the pattern appears to be changing. Brazilians can earn significantly more money in the U.S. (to buy a house or car or open a business back home) and there is a growing immigrant-community support network, particularly in New England.
THE GOOD -------
3. (U) Sao Paulo sees a large number of mostly young Brazilians going to work on H2B petitions for hotels, resorts, and lately, Indian casinos. Petitioners range from Marriott Corporation to the Vail Corporation and the Mohegan Sun Casino. The applicants usually have some college education and are planning to go to the U.S. for several months to make money. Many are returning employees. Most applicants are named on the petitions and there is no wholesale substitution of beneficiaries. Significant numbers of the applicants have tourist visas and the companies appear to have rigorous screening processes. Most of these visa applications are issued.
THE BAD -------
4. (U) As the number of Brazilians living in New England grows, we continue to see small U.S. employers filing H2B petitions for landscapers, cleaners, construction workers, etc. While we have considerable sympathy for these cases because the employers are trying to hire these people legitimately, the problem is that there is little or no vetting of the applicants in Brazil. As a consequence the quality of the applicants is mixed, with the desperate-for- work cases tending to prejudice the ones who might be legitimately planning a temporary trip. In addition, the return rates are not high for most of the petitions, which prejudices future applications.
THE UGLY --------
5. (U) Sao Paulo receives hundreds of applications a year from companies such as WorkUSA, JobsUSA, and Proline Management that use approved unnamed-worker petitions, or named petitions with 100% substitutions, to recruit poor, desperate job seekers who are willing to pay upwards of $3,000 for a chance to apply for a temporary work visa (see ref A for further details). The jobs are typically hotel cleaning jobs and are located throughout the U.S. Some receive a partial refund if the visa is denied but all are charged outrageous sums of money to become H2B beneficiaries. Invariably, applicants have borrowed money or sold a car to fund the visa application and can never hope to make enough money in the four or five months the petition is valid to make a roundtrip worthwhile. We deny most of these applications. Some of the ones that are issued arrive in the U.S. to find they have no job. In the end, the recruiters have made a fortune preying on the unsuspecting public, consulate visa appointments are swelled with these terrible cases, and few are issued visas. Only the recruiters benefit.
6. (U) Among the first individuals to recognize the financial opportunities presented by H2B visas were human traffickers. Smugglers who had a lucrative business moving desperate Brazilians via Mexico or Argentina or the Caribbean saw a cheaper and less risky way to profit from the same clientele (the Mexico route cost 10,000 USD). One investor in an H2B recruitment agency told Post's fraud unit that her partner cheated her out of her entire investment and absconded to Europe on a false passport. He took all the applicant fees and five potential illegal immigrants to Europe. The fraud unit contacted the Department of Homeland Security, which stopped this smuggler from entering the United States.
COMMENT -------
7. (SBU) One issue that continually troubles us is the lack of a common database to ensure that petitioner's agents are not substituting or sending more workers than they should be. To that end, post supports the H2B beneficiary database in the CCD. We must stop the facilitation of the "ugly" cases. We suggest requiring that only employers be allowed to petition workers. The petitioners for the worst cases are typically recruiters or agencies that place the workers. Cases are much less problematic when a company such as Marriott is itself the petitioner (Marriott in particular has an exemplary recruitment program in Brazil). There must also be sanctions to inhibit these local recruitment agencies from charging outrageous fees. The Brazilian authorities have expressed some interest in deterring these agencies, but under existing Brazilian law prosecution is very difficult.
8. (SBU) We wish we could issue more of the "bad" cases. When an employer can demonstrate that his workers from prior years have returned, the issuance rate soars. Too often, however, we have petitioners like one Massachusetts cleaning company, whose prior-year beneficiaries all disappeared into the large illegal Brazilian population in Massachusetts. Perhaps the employers' future participation in the H2B program could be conditioned on the return rate of their prior employees.
9. (U) Meanwhile, next time you are gambling in Connecticut or getting on a chairlift at a ski area, we suggest you greet the employees by saying "bom dia."
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