A former Garland Independent School District administrator stands accused of illegally recruiting foreign teachers and never helping them secure visas to keep them in the United States.
An independent investigation found Victor Leos, former executive director of human resources and the leader of the H-1B Visa Work Program at Garland ISD, would travel to several foreign countries to recruit teachers. The main country he would recruit from was the Philippines, even though Spanish was not the native language.
According to the investigation by Littler Mendelson — a law firm that represents management in employment, employee benefits and labor law matters — Leos would sometimes hire up to 30 teachers at a time.
The investigation found Leos would charge teachers an orientation fee as well as getting them to sign a year lease with his stepson who has a rental home on Preston Trail in Garland.
Leos' stepdaughter works at Yu Law Firm, and, according to the investigation, that firm handled all the immigration issues for Garland ISD. The district has since cut ties with the law firm.
The investigation found more than 200 teachers were recruited this way over the past decade.
Leos would promise the teachers positions in the Garland ISD and, according to the investigation, many teachers were placed in classes without appropriate backgrounds for the subject they were expected to teach.
"I can say that all of our teachers here on the H-1B Visa program are highly qualified and meet state standards and are teaching, currently, classes they are certified to teach," said Garland ISD Superintendent Dr. Bob Morrison.
The latest news from around North Texas.
The superintendent released the following statement Tuesday morning:
"The District is not now, nor has it ever been, responsible for permanent residency. Garland ISD continues to support all of its employees, including international teachers. For some teachers, however, despite having begun the process of permanent residency through prior counsel, the District is now no longer able to continue the process due to the limits of existing U.S. immigration law, which is quite restrictive. We are saddened that some of our teachers do not have enough time left in their temporary immigration status for the transition to permanent residence. Garland ISD will continue to support each of the teachers to the best of its ability and to the extent possible under the law.
The District has severed its relationship and no longer contracts with the lawyers at both Yu & Associates or the Marasigan Firm. We are currently working with the immigration experts at Cox Smith."
Garland ISD said refunds for teachers whose recruitment did not follow regulations will cost more than $500,000.
Leos retired in January.
The investigation found that Garland ISD Associate Superintendent Dr. Gary Reeves knew about the problems with the program for at least a year before it came to light. Reeves and teacher Paul Ruefiger are on administrative leave during the investigation.
According to the district, school employees involved in the H-1B Visa Work Program contacted the school district in September 2013 with concerns of potential wrongdoing. The district self-reported the information to federal authorities and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security opened an investigation.
The school district plans to present the information to the school board Tuesday night and contact local and state law enforcement as well.