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Nannies in Hot Demand
Illegal USA Jobs lure young Kiwi nannies
Young nannies are being lured to America to illegal nanny positions advertised here in New Zealand.
The popularity and reputation of the New Zealand Nanny has created a huge demand for Kiwi child care workers. Unfortunately, the families are not being honest with the applicants and are encouraging them to lie to Immigration on entry, while assuring them that “everyone does it”. One young nanny I spoke to had been sent a thirteen page document on “How to lie at US Customs”.
In January 1996, a change in the US Government legislation allowed legal Au Pair programs to recruit from New Zealand for the first time. This saw the introduction of Au Pair Programs to New Zealand such as Au Pair in America, which is overseen and approved by the United States Government. The cultural exchange allows nannies to work as part of an American family for a year caring for their children. This provides protection from exploitation of the nannies with guidelines and contracts that must be adhered to by the families. There always has been those families who do not want to pay the high Agency fees to get a Kiwi nanny legally. There is already a large number of New Zealand nannies currently working illegally in the United States, making it seem easy and risk free, but this is not the case.
The US Government treats the issue of illegal immigrants very seriously, and is enforcing stricter screening at Immigration.
The risk of going to an illegal position is huge, and can lead to arrest at Customs, immediate deportation, as well as detention. This also bans the offender from an American Visa for five years.
The illegal nannies have no job security, and can find themselves suddenly fired without notice for the most trivial of reasons. The ‘aliens’ have no legal comeback against being treated badly. It is not uncommon for nannies to be expected to work 60 hour weeks. Employers could expect the nanny to double as a housemaid and cleaner, knowing the nanny has no choice or chance of protest.
Upstanding American citizens who would sack their nanny on the spot at the first hint of any illegal behaviour seldom think twice about breaking the law themselves when hiring a nanny.
One horrifying example is 20 year old Bethany Joel. She was offered the chance of looking after the baby of family friends in San Francisco. The arrangement was she would receive board and lodging plus some pocket money. She saw it as a great opportunity to travel, live in America and gain some further child care experience.
In October 1993 Bethany flew into Denver for a two hour stop-over before her connecting flight to San Francisco. Queuing at passport control her worries were no more serious than wondering if she had brought enough clothes. She had no idea the next few days would be the worst of her entire life.
After a long wait at Immigration, the officer began questioning Bethany about her trip – the length of her stay, her visa and why she only had $400 in cash. He insisted that this wasn’t enough for six months and wouldn’t listen when she said her friends would be financing her. She tried to explain but ended up in tears. Her luggage was searched and after finding a letter from her future employers, the immigration officer said Bethany wouldn’t be taking her connecting flight, and she was led to a small room. An hour later a female officer collected her and put her in a van and took her to Denver Detention Centre. She was going to jail.
Escorted by armed guards into a cell, she was made to put on overalls. Bethany tried to tell the female guard that there had been a terrible mistake, and asked if she could make a phone call. She was told that wouldn’t be possible was led to another room. She was told to strip off completely and was made to bend over while the officer did an internal search. Bethany protested and asked why this was happening to her, she was told she was an ‘alien’- an illegal immigrant.
Finally she was told she could phone her parents. Bethany called, almost in tears, to find the answer machine was on. Bethany was shoved into a cell with six others and had no idea when she would be freed.
Finally after two days, she was told she had two options, she could sign a declaration stating she was an illegal immigrant, and would not be allowed to enter the States for two years, or stay in the centre for three or four months waiting for her trial. She quickly agreed to sign, and arrangements were made to send her home.
She was escorted through the airport by armed guards to Customs. She cried all the way home and again when she met her parents at the other end. They blamed themselves for not helping more with the arrangements, but Bethany knew it was her own fault. Although she had a six month visa, she was not allowed to seek employment. To Customs Officials it was obvious she would not be able to support herself on $400, and would be likely to seek work elsewhere.
What should have been a great experience turned out to be a living nightmare.
Nannies here applying for positions in America should ensure they apply through a legal Au Pair Program, who check the families, and ensure the nannies are looked after. These programs are sponsored by large American Organisations, and act as sponsors for the au pairs, giving them the chance to apply for a legal J1 cultural exchange visa. This is the only legal means of becoming an au pair in the United States. This eliminates all risk, and ensures everything goes smoothly.
If you want to be a nanny in the USA, enrol with a specialised agency such as Au Pair in America www.nanniesabroad.co.nz , who can give you all the facts and make sure your job is safe and legal. Any advertisements that appear in the newspaper where you need to contact America directly are illegal – no matter what they tell you.
We’ve been in the news since 1996 – we were the first in New Zealand to send nannies to America legally so that hit the front page of the Dominion way back then.