SIOUX CITY (KTIV) -- Eight Chilean students have filed a federal lawsuit against Western Iowa Tech Community College.
In a press release, the attorneys for those eight Chilean students claim WITCC, J&L Staffing and others teamed up to unlawfully use the J-1 Visa program to exploit the students for labor.
In May of 2019, WITCC started a J-1 Visa program, which college officials said would give students the opportunity to work and study in their field of study. The lawsuit claims through this program the students were promised free tuition, room, and board for a two-year degree program in Culinary
Arts or Robotics.
The lawsuit claims while the students were preparing to come to the U.S., the program was changed into a one-year program in "Food Services" or "Electromechanical Technician."
Attorneys for the students claim WITCC lied to the students and the Department of State about the purposes of the J-1 Visa, and their plans for the students' employment. The lawsuit also alleges the college intended for the students to work 40 hours a week in production and manufacturing to pay off their "debt" to the college for this program.
In 2019, after complaints were sent to the Department of State, the J-1 Visa Program was closed down.
The lawsuit claims that as the investigation continued the college used the COVID-19 pandemic to encourage the students to leave the country and evict them from on-campus housing.
Immigration lawyers from the Parrish Kruidenier Law Firm, based out of Des Moines, Iowa, filed this lawsuit on Nov. 25.
The lawsuit also alleges J&L Staffing, Tur-Pak Foods, Inc, Royal Canin USA, Inc. and their involved staff and administrators violated federal and state laws including the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act
(TVPRA) and Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (RICO).
KTIV has reached out to WITCC for comment.