JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The State Department should add housekeepers to a list of prohibited jobs for foreign college students who spend their summers in the United States as part of cultural exchange program that has left participants vulnerable to exploitation, an advocacy group said Tuesday.
The State Department announced major changes to the J-1 Summer Work and Travel Program in May and expanded a list of jobs that students should not be allowed to work. It was the latest in a series of steps to fix the program since The Associated Press reported in 2010 that abuses included participants working in strip clubs or living and working in conditions they compared to indentured servitude.
The program allows foreign college students to spend up to four months in the United States. They are required to have jobs. The program was meant to foster cultural understanding, but it has become a multimillion-dollar international business that brings more than 100,000 students to the United States each year. They often work in restaurants and resorts.
Among changes the State Department implemented was expanding a list of prohibited jobs to include manufacturing, construction and agriculture. The program also bans participants from working in the sex industry.
The State Department opened up a period for public comment on the changes.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organization, submitted a list of recommendations on Tuesday as part of that process, including adding housekeeping to the list of prohibited jobs.
The State Department didn't immediately respond to AP's request for comment.
SPLC said it has interviewed hundreds of program participants in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. The organization said that in 2011 it found students working as housekeepers at a casino in Mississippi where pay was based on how many rooms they cleaned in a day.
The SPLC said the company that arranged the students' jobs and housing charged so much for rent that one participant reported taking home $189 for 67 hours of work — less than $3 an hour.
In addition to banning housekeeping, SPLC urged the State Department to step up enforcement of rules to protect the participants, and ensure they aren't displacing American workers.
In announcing the changes in May, the State Department acknowledged the work aspect of program "has too often overshadowed the core cultural component necessary for the Summer Work Travel Program to be consistent with the intent of the (1961) Fulbright-Hays Act."
The visa program is aimed at allowing students of modest means to work in seasonal or temporary jobs as a way of offsetting the costs of their travel. But some businesses have been using the students as a source of cheap labor.
SPLC said the department should take jurisdiction over employers rather than leaving it to sponsor companies to police the program because a sponsor "has little incentive to self-police or regulate its business partners." SPLC said offending companies should be banned.
"At its core, there's nothing wrong with having an exchange program. The real flaw is when this program is used as a tool to exploit workers and that's what it has turned into," SPLC deputy legal director Dan Werner told AP on Tuesday.
In one of the worst cases of abuse, a woman told the AP she was beaten, raped and forced to work as a stripper in Detroit after being promised a job as a waitress in Virginia. A federal indictment last year in New York charged that members of the Gambino and Bonnano mafia families and Russian mobsters were using fraudulent job offers to help eastern European women come to the United States to work in strip clubs.
Students at a candy factory that packs Hershey chocolates in Hershey, Pa., protested last year over what they called hard labor and pay deductions for rent that often left them with little money. The company that sponsored those students lost its State Department certification.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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