Fraudulent labor recruiters dupe Mexican migrants

Pedro Clemente, 18, and his wife Maria Rafael, 17, undocumented farm laborers from Mexico, work in an artichoke field in Thermal, Calif.

TEXT OF STORY

JEREMY HOBSON: In some parts of Mexico, getting a work-visa for the U.S. is like winning the lottery. Unless, of course, that work-visa is a fraud.

From Monterrey, Mexico, Marketplace's Jeff Tyler has this report on a scam that's targetting poor migrant workers.


JEFF TYLER: When he came to the United States, Jose Paz expected to work in construction. He says he and other migrants each paid Mexican recruiters $400 to get legal work in the U.S. But when he arrived, there were no jobs.

JOSE PAZ: The recruiters falsified signatures for real companies so they could get the group into the country.

Paz was stranded in Colorado in the winter.

PAZ: We stayed there without money. We didn't have clothes for the cold climate. So we suffered a lot.

He had to borrow money to get home. In the end, a trip intended to enrich him actually cost Jose Paz about $1,800.

Luciano Escamilla investigates fraud for the U.S. consulate in Monterrey. He says immigrant workers are easy targets because they're desperate for work.

LUCIANO ESCAMILLA: The people want to hear good news. And the swindlers, they know what to say to these guys to get money.

Poor folks scrape together everything they can, only to lose it.

ESCAMILLA: We have heard everything from $100 to $5,000. People who sell their houses to get the money to travel to the U.S. And, at the end, they've got nothing.

As a rule of thumb, the U.S. consulate's Marc Ludeke recommends:

MARC LUDEKE: If someone is asking you to pay any fees upfront, then in all likelihood, that opportunity does not exist.

Visa fraud attracts hustlers on both sides of the border. Luke Durkin is the consulate's fraud prevention manager.

LUKE DURKIN: Employers in the United States will request more workers than they actually need. They will charge workers for those visas. Other times, people will submit entirely false petitions where they're charging workers for the visas.

The Migrants Attention Center in Monterrey helps workers avoid getting ripped off. It estimates that poor Mexican workers have invested more than $2 million in U.S. jobs that don't exist.

In Monterrey, Mexico, I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

About the author

Jeff Tyler is a reporter for Marketplace’s Los Angeles bureau, where he reports on issues related to immigration and Latin America.

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