College President Charged with Imposing Forced Labor on F-1 Students02 Jun 2014
The U.S. government has brought federal criminal charges against a college president for abusing foreign students. The charges allege that the president of Cathedral Bible College, Mr. Reginald Miller, demanded the students work long hours for very little pay, threatening to revoke the F-1 status of any student who failed to comply.
Allegations Made By Multiple Students
The criminal complaint against Miller is supported by an affidavit from a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). According to the affidavit, the students interviewed revealed a “pervasive climate of fear in which their legal status … was in constant jeopardy, at the sole discretion of [Mr. Miller].” The affidavit also alleges that the classes offered were not “real” and revolved around the students’ work schedules. The HSI says that it has enough evidence to charge Miller with the crime of forced labor, which is a felony.
Allegations of Forced Work and Underpayment
The eight students who provided information to HSI investigators all claim to have been forced to work far more than the 20 hours per week of on-campus (or school-affiliated) employment allowed for F-1 students during the school year. According to these students, Miller would threaten to terminate their status as F-1 students if they failed to comply with the work demands. The employment involved work at the college, as well as at Miller’s personal residence. The students further claim that they were grossly underpaid for their work, at a rate that is well-below the minimum wage required under federal and state law. Also, the students allege that they were subjected to poor living conditions, including limited access to hot water, air conditioning and heat, and that they were fed expired and/or insufficient amounts of food.
Access to SEVIS Restricted
Reports indicate that Miller was the only official at the school with access to the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), which tracks the status and details related to F-1 and M-1 students as well as J-1 exchange visitors. According to the HIS, the school’s president would use his access to the system to punish foreign students who complained. As a term of Miller’s bond, which was set at $250,000, his access to SEVIS has been restricted, and any changes he makes must first be approved by the U.S. Probation Office.
Importance of Government Protecting Vulnerable
This incident reflects the importance of the government’s efforts to monitor and investigate those who seek to abuse foreign nationals in the United States. While it is not clear how this matter came to the attention of the HSI, it was likely through a witness or victim who found the courage to blow the whistle. This nation benefits greatly from the F-1 student program, so it is encouraging to see the government taking steps to protect the foreign students who participate in it.
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