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News from EPI New State Department rules for Summer Work Travel program a significant improvement

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Contact: Phoebe Silag or Karen Conner, 202-775-8810

New State Department rules for Summer Work Travel program a significant improvement

In a new commentary, A bold step forward: Assessing the State Department’s new J-1 Summer Work Travel regulations, EPI Vice President Ross Eisenbrey and Immigration Policy Analyst Daniel Costa analyze the State Department’s new regulations for its Summer Work Travel program. The SWT program was designed to facilitate cultural exchanges between Americans and citizens of other countries, but due to inadequate oversight, it has become the largest guestworker program in the country – one that lacks basic worker protections and provides businesses with incentives to hire foreign workers over U.S. workers. EPI’s research, including the report Guestworker Diplomacy, has detailed the program’s numerous problems, including the exploitative working conditions many J-1 visa holders experience.

Eisenbrey and Costa find that the new rules—representing the first phase of an effort to reform the SWT program—give new protections to both U.S. workers and program participants.

“Under Secretary Clinton’s effective leadership, the State Department has made important and necessary – but long overdue – changes to a program that had spun out of control,” said Costa. “By prohibiting hazardous jobs in agriculture, fish processing and construction, for example, she has made the program safer for foreign participants while keeping opportunities available for unemployed U.S. workers with experience in those industries.”

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