Brother Works Brother into Poverty

By Lindsey Novak

May 9, 2019 4 min read

Q: My brother convinced me to visit him in the U.S., so I applied for a temporary visa and came. I left many friends and family members there. I miss them and my life.

After arriving here, he met an American girl, fell in love, married her and now has children, so he has established his life here. He was setting up a business and wanted me to come here to help him, which I did. He paid me well, and I worked on construction for him 10-12 hours daily. When my visa was close to expiring, he talked me into staying illegally so I could continue working for him.

Once I did that, he lowered my pay to minimum wage, which I can't live on, and I can't get any other jobs because of my expired visa. I have tried but only been offered very low pay. There is no work in my country, but being poor there is easier than here. If I leave now with my current visa status, I can't return here for many years. My heart hurts, and I feel lied to. I am very slowly learning English, but I can't live under these conditions. I don't know what to do.

A: At the risk of seeming judgmental, your brother sounds diabolical — as in the worst kind of boss possible. Human trafficking is illegal and beyond evil, and though he is your brother, his actions match those who commit this crime. He knew what he was doing by convincing you to stay beyond your visa (and it's understandable you believed him over checking the facts yourself).

Your brother knows what kind of life those that live in a country illegally lead. Now he has successfully trapped you into depending on him for everything. Not only has he not treated you as a loving brother, he has taken away the greatest attribute and value this country has to offer: freedom.

Your country may not have jobs to offer those without an education or a skilled trade but staying illegally in the U.S. is no better. Working as cheap labor for your brother will be a lifetime sentence in a country where you have no one. It may be difficult to face that your brother has unmercifully used and treated you with disdain, but for your future, you need to emotionally separate yourself to properly analyze your situation.

Considering your expired visa, you could search for jobs that hire those here without legal permission; employers that do this do it for the purpose of saving money. That means you will be doomed to accept very low wages as long as you stay here. It's sad that myths about coming to America and working to become wealthy seem to spread to other countries. That will not happen if you remain here with an expired visa. There are immigrants who flee and come here because they truly feel their lives are threatened, often due to their personal and religious beliefs or life practices. That is obviously not your case, as you've said nothing of that nature.

As harsh as this may sound, forget you have a brother. Return to your country; get an education of any kind so you can work at something; be surrounded by your friends and other family members (hopefully they are not as coldhearted and cutthroat as your brother); travel legally to other countries that may have jobs you qualify for; and learn English, if possible. The years will fly by, and you may find another country more suitable for you in which to obtain work. You may not even want to return here, but whatever you do, follow the laws of that country.

Working in the U.S. offers many a future filled with opportunity for financial security, interesting and exciting positions and even fame — but not those without the proper legal permission.

Email your workplace issues and experiences to [email protected] For more information about career and life coach Lindsey Novak, visit, and for past columns, see

Photo credit: MichaelGaida at Pixabay

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