On July 10, EPI Vice President Ross Eisenbrey and Immigration Policy Analyst Daniel Costa submitted public comments to the U.S. Department of State on its 2012 Interim Final Rule that modifies the Summer Work Travel (SWT) program, the largest category of the Exchange Visitor Program. Although the SWT program’s primary purpose is to facilitate a cultural exchange for students from abroad, in 2011 over 100,000 participants entered the country with J-1 visas in order to work for four months in the United States in various occupations, including in restaurants, amusement parks, hotels and national parks. SWT is one of the largest guest worker programs in the United States, but it has been the subject of too little regulation and oversight by the State Department. As a result, EPI is encouraged by the State Department’s efforts to improve it.
EPI’s comments are generally supportive of the proposed regulatory changes but also outline numerous ways in which the program could better protect U.S. workers and the temporary foreign workers that participate in this “cultural exchange.”