Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has ordered a review of the J-1 Summer Work Travel visa program for foreign students after reports of poor working conditions and involvement in the sex industry.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has ordered an “extensive and thorough review” of a foreign exchange program that has been used by U.S. businesses as a source of cheap labor and exploited by criminals to import women to work in the sex industry.
In the latest debacle for the J-1 Summer Work Travel Program, a federal indictment unsealed last week accuses the mafia of using the cultural exchange program to bring Eastern European women to work in New York strip clubs.
The House Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee also has been gathering information on the J-1 visa, which was created in 1963 to allow college students from other countries to spend their summer breaks living, working and traveling in the U.S.
As the program has grown to bring more than 100,000 young people here annually, it has become as much about money as cultural understanding.
The State Department has made several changes since an Associated Press investigation last year uncovered widespread abuses, including living and working conditions that some participants compared to indentured servitude.
In one of the worst cases, a woman told the Associated Press she was beaten, raped and forced to work as a stripper in Detroit after being promised a job as a waitress in Virginia.
More common than sex trade abuses are shabby housing, scarce work hours and paltry pay. In August, dozens of workers protested conditions at a candy factory that packs Hershey chocolates in Hershey, Pa., complaining of hard physical labor and pay deductions for rent that often left them with little money.
A State Department spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Clinton had “called for an extensive and thorough review of the program.”
Under the J-1 program, foreign students are granted visas for up to four months and often land jobs at hotels, resorts and restaurants.
Participation has boomed from about 20,000 students in 1996 to a peak of more than 150,000 in 2008, and about 1 million foreign students have taken part in the last decade. The students come from around the world, with some of the top participating countries being Russia, Brazil, Ukraine, Thailand, Ireland, Bulgaria, Peru, Moldova and Poland.
6 Dec 2011
Student visa program to be investigated for abuses
Posted on December 7, 2011