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22 October 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.—The Philippine Embassy is calling on some 500 undocumented Filipino teachers in the United States who were victimized by illegal recruiters to step out of the shadows so they could be assisted in securing immigration relief and in going after those who victimized them.

“Our teachers need not be afraid. We are here to help,” Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. said after he was told of the sad plight of the undocumented Filipino teachers who were brought into the US by illegal recruiters several years ago.

At the same time, Ambassador Cuisia assured some 25 trafficked Filipino teachers he met with at the Embassy that authorities in the Philippines will continue to seek justice for them by going after their recruiter.

The recruiter, Isidro Rodriguez is facing multiple cases of illegal recruitment, alien smuggling, visa fraud and human trafficking filed against him in the Philippines and the US but is at large after he was released from detention a few months ago.

“We will not stop until we get Isidro Rodriguez,” Ambassador Cuisia told the teachers and other trafficking victims who came to express their appreciation for the assistance that the Embassy had been extending to them since 2007.

According to Ambassador Cuisia, the Embassy will also continue to provide consular assistance to the trafficked teachers, including the waiver of authentication fees and issuance of the necessary certification to support their request for immigration relief with the US Department of Homeland Security.

Labor Attache Angel Borja, who also attended the meeting, said the Embassy will also recommend that employment opportunities being offered to Filipinos in the US be first verified to determine if such jobs exist. “This is intended to protect our kababayans from other Isidro Rodriguezes out there,” he told the teachers.

Borja said Rodriguez remains on top of the watch list of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking, the Anti-Money Laundering Council and the Bureau of Immigration.

A total of 21 illegal recruitment cases have been filed against Rodriguez while 41 recruitment violation cases have been filed against his company, Renaissance Staffing Support Center Inc. in Manila, said Borja.

Lawyer Arnedo Valera, Executive Director of the Migrant Heritage Commission (MHC), a nongovernment organization that has been providing legal assistance to many of the teachers, said cases have also been filed against Rodriguez with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Valera, who accompanied the teachers during their meeting with Ambassador Cuisia, commended the Embassy’s anti-trafficking efforts, saying it was the report of then Ambassador Willy Gaa to Manila in 2008 that eventually led to the arrest and detention of Rodriguez.

“Since 2007, we have been engaged in a meaningful partnership with the Embassy in the investigation and filing of charges against Rodriguez as well as in other cases of human and labor trafficking perpetrated by other recruitment agencies and individuals,” said Valera.

He said Rodriguez’s victims could be as many as 1,000—all of them teachers whom he allegedly was able to convince to pay from $10,000 to $15,000 each for non-existing jobs in various public schools across the US from 2003 to 2007.

Valera said that while some of the teachers decided to head back to the Philippines most of opted to take a chance by staying and working illegally in the US.  He said these teachers had no choice but to take menial jobs to allow them to provide for their families and at the same time pay the high-interest loans they secured for their placement fees.

“Although as many as 300 of the teachers have already been issued trafficking visas amd can now legally stay and work in the US, most are hesitant to surface because of shame and fear,” Valera said. “But they are now coming forward one by one.” ###

22 October 2014

22 October 2014

22 October 2014

Immigration Relief. Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. assured some 25 trafficked Filipino teachers he met with at the Embassy that authorities in the Philippines will continue to seek justice for them by going after their recruiter. (Embassy Photo by Majalya Fernando).