SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – Eight foreign students of Western Iowa Tech Community College (WITCC) are suing the college and others, saying that students were lied to about a recruitment program at the college.
The defendants; WITCC, J&L Staffing, Tur-Pak Foods, Inc, Royal Canin USA Inc, and involved staff and administrators; are accused of violating laws that include the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act.
Benjamin Bergman and Brandon Brawn, the attorneys for the students, said the defendants unlawfully used the J-1 Visa program to exploit the Chilean students for labor. They said the students were recruited to the college under promises of a two-year degree program in Culinary Arts or Robotics, free tuition, room and board, and internships.
The defendants then changed the two-year program into a one-year program in “Food Services” or “Electromechanical Technician,” according to the students’ lawyers. They also lied about the purpose of the J-1 Visa and the plans for employment, intending them to work 40 hours a week in production and manufacturing to pay off the “debt” of the college program.
The lawyers said the defendants began to close the J-1Visa program in late 2019 after complaints were made to the Department of the State, adding that the students were encouraged to self-deport. The defendants then allegedly used the COVID-19 pandemic to try to evict the students from student housing and out of the country.
The students hired immigration lawyers and the Parrish Kuidenier Law Firm. The lawyers said that the believe this is the fist lawsuit of it’s kind in Iowa, adding that it will help to “define and establish the rights and remedies for those subjected to coordinated human trafficking efforts.”
Read the full complaint below.