MIDLAND, Texas - The husband and wife owners of two businesses in nearby Stanton, Texas, pleaded guilty here on Friday to conspiracy to commit visa fraud following a two-year investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
David Wayne Decker, 51, and his wife Nancy Mintle Decker, 45, both of Stanton, Texas, owned a landscaping business and a golf course. They submitted applications to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security, requesting that Mexican workers be granted visas allowing them to work legally in the United States in the Deckers' businesses. Instead, once granted the visas, the workers violated the terms of their visas and illegally obtained jobs with other employers.
H-2B visas are available to employers of foreign workers not working in the agricultural field. These visas are only available for temporary work on a one-time basis. Employers must file a Form I-129 with USCIS, and prove that there are no unemployed U.S. workers willing or able to do the job.
The Deckers admitted that between 2003 and 2006, they submitted a series of false Form I-129s to USCIS in which they asserted under oath that they needed to hire temporary labor from Mexico for their businesses. In their written submission, they promised that any workers granted temporary visas as a consequence of their stated need for labor would work solely in the Stanton area as landscaping or golf course employees.
The Deckers'guilty plea acknowledges that many of the workers who were granted H2-B visas as a consequence of their businesses' petitions were going to work for other employers around the Permian Basin. However, the Deckers admitted in court Friday they had no intention of hiring the individuals they petitioned for when they filed their paperwork.
The Deckers also admitted they accepted payments from two sources: from other employers who needed additional labor but had not submitted applications to USCIS, and from the Mexican national workers in exchange for visas. In their guilty plea, the Deckers agreed that more than 100 visas were illegally issued to workers from Mexico under false pretenses as a consequence of their untruthful petitions to USCIS.
"This investigation exemplifies ICE's commitment to ensuring the integrity of the nation's immigration system," said Roberto G. Medina, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in El Paso. "Our ICE agents relentlessly detect, investigate and prosecute anyone who attempts to fraudulently obtain an immigration benefit." Medina oversees west Texas and the State of New Mexico.
David Wayne Decker faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced later this year. The court approved an agreement between the government and Nancy Mintle Decker allowing her to serve a three-year term of probation as a consequence of her felony conviction. As part of their pleas, the Deckers additionally agreed to a $150,000 money judgment assessment against them, which represents the illegal proceeds gained as a result of their scheme. Assistant U.S. Attorney John S. Klassen, Western District of Texas, is prosecuting this case for the government.