Prince George’s County Foreign Teachers to Demand Justice at White House Gates

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

August 8, 2011

For reference:

Carlo Parapara                                                                  Emmelle Israel
President                                                                          Media Liaison, Katarungan
Pilipino Educators Network of PG County                            Phone: 410.701.0520
Email: cbparapara@yahoo.com                                        
Phone: 443.889.1838                                                             

Prince George’s County Foreign Teachers to Demand Justice at White House Gates

Prince George’s County, MD foreign teachers and their supporters plan to picket in front of the White House on August 9 from 3 to 5pm to draw attention to the injustice handed to them by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) and the Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS).

On July 7, the DOL and PGCPS reached a settlement agreement after the DOL had found PGCPS to be a willful violator of H1B regulations. For effectively underpaying teachers on H1B visas, PGCPS agreed to pay back wages, a $100,000 penalty, and to be debarred for 2 years meaning an end to their ability to continue to sponsor any foreign workers.

The foreign teachers and their supporters are enraged that the settlement effectively terminates their employment and potentially their lawful presence in the U.S. Their protest rally is aimed at showing their outrage at the blatant injustice and to bring to the Obama administration’s attention another aspect of U.S.’  broken immigration system.

“It’s a travesty that these victimized teachers who have successfully raised the standard of education in PG county are now unceremoniously dismissed without regard to their performance or seniority,” says Joanna Quiambao from Katarungan, a Filipino-American grassroots human rights organization. “This is how some foreign workers become undocumented through no fault of their own.”

The teachers’ supporters are seeking audience with representatives of the White House’s Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. They plan to discuss an equitable solution for the teachers and highlight the deficiencies they experienced with the H1B program and immigration system.

“How in the world can I go back to the Philippines in 9 days? I have a car loan, doctors’ appointments, financial obligations, etc. My family is with me here, we cannot just pack our bags and go home.This is our life at stake, we need to plan for it ! Talk about injustice! They could not even give a 45 day notice like our apartment does,” exclaims Ms. Gumanoy, one of the hundreds of teachers impacted.

“We are pursuing all legal channels to appeal the decision, but because of the urgency of the situation, the teachers have been pushed to take to the streets and do what we do best: educate the public and authorities on the issue. For the teachers fortunate to still have a job and reporting back to their classes later this week, we found it important to plan this picket to show our solidarity with our brothers and sisters that are not so lucky,” explains Carlo Parapara, president of the Pilipino Educator’s Network of PG county.

The teachers also have an online petition effort that has already gathered over 1,000 signatures on Change.org: http://www.change.org/petitions/us-labor-secretary-hilda-solis-tell-dol-their-protection-of-maryland-teachers-gets-failing-grade