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Court of Appeals Rules in Favor of Immigrants

November 29, 2007 by  


By Ajay Choudhary

In lawsuits involving employers and employees, the Court of Appeals for the

Fifth Circuit – the Court of Appeals that governs federal cases in Texas – usually rules in favor of employers. However, in a recent decision, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in favor of a group of employees who are in the United States on H-2B visas.

The name of the case that was recently decided by the Court of Appeals is called Abraham v. Singh. In that case, Chad Chandler recruited about 200 immigrants to come to the United States to work as steelworkers for his company, Falcon Steel Structures. Falcon Steel Structures obtained H-2B visas for the immigrants and, in return, each immigrant paid Chandler between $7,000 and $20,000. However, after the immigrants arrived in the United States, Chandler refused to employ them as steelworkers and he threatened to have them deported if they complained to anyone.

The immigrants filed a lawsuit against Chandler and Falcon Steel Structures under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). A district court dismissed the lawsuit on the ground that Chandler’s conduct did not pose a threat of continuing criminal activity. The immigrants appealed the district court’s decision to the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s decision, ruling that Chandler’s criminal activities could have continued indefinitely if the immigrants had not filed their lawsuit. As a result of the Court of Appeals’ decision, the immigrants will be able to proceed with their lawsuit.

The decision by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is a published decision, which means that all federal courts in Texas are required to follow the Court of Appeals’ decision. Therefore, if any immigrants are deceived by an employer who sponsored them for a visa, they can now file a lawsuit under the federal RICO law, to recover monetary damages.

Ajay Choudhary is Board Certified in Labor and Employment Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is an attorney at Coane and Associates, 1900 West Loop South, Suite 820, Houston, Texas 77027. His e-mail address is ajay.choudhary@coane.com and his phone number is (713) 850- 0066. He gives free phone consultations in employment cases.

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