ESL/TEFL? Where are all the felons hiding?

(You can also listen to my podcasts at Podbean and BlogTalkRadio)

Today, I am going to discuss a less popular, but dramatically important issue, which plagues not just the United States, but many other countries…and, this problem is spreading rapidly, and it negatively impacts the lives and safety of countless people, including children.

I am referring to the loopholes in the laws that allow many felons and other criminals to escape justice as they are recruited and employed to teach English in foreign countries around the world. Often referred to a ESL (or English as a Second Language), or TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language), these programs are often advertised as opportunities to see the world, work in a foreign country, and earn good money, all at the same time. Although many of these teaching opportunities are available directly to qualified teachers, most of the positions are filled by agencies.

The reasons for this are a bit diverse, and depend on the destination country needing the English Language teachers. Many of them lack the knowledge on how to recruit good native English teachers, while others simply lack the funding and resources to do the recruiting themselves – so they connect with agencies to help fulfill their need for teachers.

While some of the agencies recruit quality candidates – and by quality, I mean those rare individuals who actually enjoy teaching, and are qualified to do so – most of them seek the cheapest candidates…and, by cheapest, I mean, they are only looking for native English speakers. These agencies often have ways to quickly get anyone interested in the positions a qualifying certificate to teach, or, more commonly, they recruit from people that just need employment…and they invest the small amount of money into bringing these people abroad then they tie all the loose ends once inside the destination country.

So, why is this a problem? Well, the guidelines for each school, and each country differ, often dramatically, as far as qualifications are concerned…so the agencies are often free to make unsubstantiated claims in order to place people from their recruited native English speaker pool of candidates…and, most schools take their word for it. In the event that the schools require proof, the agencies usually are connected enough in-country to pay off the right people in order for this proof to be fabricated or, more commonly, completely overlooked. In many of these destination countries, the schools need teachers so badly, they will usually go along with the agencies so they can remain accredited by offering English classes, or so they can meet the requirements of their government or community in order to maintain their required enrollment.

Many of the English teacher recruits come from the bottom of the barrel – felons, pedophiles, rapists, junkies, and the like. I have first hand experience with this, which I will get in to in just a few minutes.

To illustrate how real this problem is, you can follow this link to an article that outlines the increased awareness in China, where this problem is extreme…and, truthfully, it really makes America and other western countries look bad, since our apparent complicity to the issue seems to indicate our approval.

I know from personal interviews I have conducted, and from schools with which I am in contact, that many of the administrators feel the governments of both the country of origin and the destination country turn their heads on the matter completely…it apparently satisfies needs from both ends…inexpensive teachers, and a small economic relief on the country of origin since they can funnel their judicial resources elsewhere because the criminal is no longer viable to pursue overseas.

Now this isn’t always the case, as you can see from the article I posted…but here another link for you to read…you can see that others are actually providing bare-bones guidelines on how criminals can successfully get placed outside their country  into destination countries that accept the “don’t ask, don’t tell” mentality to fill their positions.

Well, if it works for both sides, who cares, right? First, many of these people are still predators, and the majority of them are fugitives…they often get visas sponsored by the agencies which allow them to get out of their country before law enforcement realizes they are gone…this is a major selling point for the agencies, especially since they know once they have them inside their country, they have them for good…they can’t return to their own country because they often face jail or prison, and most of them have no jobs and no money, so they now depend on the agency to provide them housing and paychecks.

Also, since the agencies work with the schools directly, they can usually get the new recruits working quickly…they also tend to keep most of the payments from the schools, and only filter enough back to the teachers for them to buy basic necessities. Additionally, since the agencies are listed as the sponsors for the visas, they maintain an enormous amount of control over these individuals…at any time, they can complain to either local law enforcement, or the various embassies and have the individual deported, or arrested.

The real issue is the danger to the students and the local population. Most of these criminals are not safe around children – which is the most common English teaching position – and, most of them continue breaking the laws…using drugs, raping, stealing, and so forth…usually, the agencies, pay the fines for them, and sweep everything under the rug so they can continue their income streams from the schools…if a student is victimized, they simply pay off the school, the family, and place the teacher in another city.

There are many agencies participating in this scheme…in one way or another. As an example, I know several teachers that worked with the agency TEFL369 – from China…I won’t provide links, but you can easily search and find their site, and all their advertisements. This particular agency is owned by a Chinese University professor…he is well-connected, so he is very easily able to get around the laws. This agency offers housing (very cheap housing, often with conditions even the locals consider poor), and they work with many languages as well as English…one of their biggest selling points is their visa sponsorship…they initially claim to sponsor a working class visa…and, most of their teachers get them…but, inside the US, things have changed recently and they can usually only get a tourist visa for their US recruits.

On coming to China, foreigners are required to register with the local police – in the case of this agency, they do that for you…which is not legal, since the police require foreigners to appear in person and have their picture taken, as well as have them sign and agree to the address where they are primarily staying…they are also required to provide an exit date, since they are not allowed to stay indefinitely, and they are often required to provide an airline ticket as proof – this rule applies primarily to tourist visas. Most importantly, you are not permitted by law in China to work on a tourist visa…you face up to a month in jail, and deportation…this agency has numerous foreign teachers working in Chinese schools, and many of them are on tourist visas…this allows them more control also…they maintain legal leverage at all times over their recruits, as well as financial leverage.

During my investigations and interviews, and I only tapped into a small portion of the teaching population (for foreigners, anyway)…I met 38 foreign language teachers…30 of them were actively working on tourist visas…15 of them had completed their 1-year contract with the agency, but were forced to renew a new contract because they were so financially depressed they couldn’t afford to return to their home country…and, 36 of them had criminal records…ranging from theft, domestic violence, narcotics use, narcotics trafficking, rape, and pedophilia…the worst part is that all of them were at present, or had at one time taught children below the age 10…one of them that was teaching at a pre-school is actually a fugitive from the United States – for statutory rape, terrorist threats, domestic violence, and narcotics related offenses. Actually, I did further research and found out that 12 of the 38 were fugitives from their home country…I contacted the embassies and the authorities, but all of them offered similar responses…”thank you for letting us know, but we won’t pursue it unless we can pick them up inside the country.”

I contacted the schools directly and many of them were fired, however, some of them were allowed to continue working as teachers.

Also of note, of the 38 I met, 6 of them had been re-arrested in country – I was not able to get information on what charges they faced, but they were not in jail when I met them, and it seemed that the agency managed to get them out of whatever trouble they had gotten into. I am telling you that these people are dangerous and should never be allowed to even be around children, and definitely are not qualified to teach them.

The purpose of this broadcast is not to bash one agency…clearly they are only part of the ongoing problem. It might seem like a nice idea to let some of our criminals disappear and become someone else’s burden; however, many of them continue being dangerous criminals – it not only makes our country look irresponsible, but it jeopardizes the safety of other people, and often young children.

That’s it for now…you can find me on Facebook and Twitter…and my podcasts are on Podbean and BlogTalkRadio.

Since this is an ongoing investigation of mine, if you have any information to add, please let me know. Also, please let me know your comments, feedback, and suggestions.

Thank you for stopping by and please check back soon.

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