A Louisiana company paid more than $100,000 to 12 U.S. citizen workers Thursday following allegations that the company had favored foreign workers on temporary H2-B visas over American workers.
Barrios Street Realty LLC made the payments as a settlement with the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ had sued the company on behalf of the 12 U.S. citizens who applied for–but did not get–jobs at the company. Soon after their applications, owner Jorge Arturo Guerrero Rodriguez petitioned for workers through the H-2B visa program, which allows U.S. employers who meet certain requirements to bring in foreign workers. One of those requirements is that the company first check for qualified U.S. citizens before using the program, and Rodriguez had falsely claimed he couldn’t find any American workers for his roofing company.
“The Department of Justice will not tolerate employers misusing visa programs to discriminate against U.S. workers,” Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore said in a statement. “We will vigorously prosecute claims against companies that place U.S. workers in a disfavored status.”
Rodriguez’ company has to pay an additional $30,000 in civil penalties to the DOJ because his actions violated the Immigration and Nationality Act, which protects American workers from competition from cheaper foreign workers.
The penalty comes on the heals of the Department of Homeland Security approving 15,000 more H-2B visas after the U.S. hit its 66,000 annual quota in July. DHS says adding the visas is an “America First” policy, although President Trump criticized the use of foreign workers during his election campaign.
“We are talking about American businesses that are at risk of suffering irreparable harm if they do not get additional H-2B visas,” DHS press secretary David Lapan said.
DHS is not expected to raise the visa cap again until 2018.
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