Trump Lets Down Summer Job-Seeking Teens; J Visa Rolls on

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By Joe Guzzardi

Joe is a CAPS Senior Writing Fellow whose commentaries about California's social issues have run in newspapers throughout California and the country for nearly 30 years. Contact Joe at joeguzzardi@capsweb.org, or find him on Twitter @joeguzzardi19.

The writer's views are his own.

June 9, 2017

Bloomberg News recently ran a story that asked “Why Aren’t American Teenagers Working Anymore?” The story listed a host of valid reasons. Older Americans have crowded teens out of the job market, or since summer pay is too low to make a dent in college tuition, parents are encouraging their children to volunteer to beef up their college resumes. Some students elect to study rather than work.

Outrage: Thousands of prime summer jobs go to foreign nationals!

Bloomberg also casually mentions immigration as a cause for declining teen employment. From the story: “Immigrants are competing with teens for jobs; a 2012 study found that less educated immigrants affected employment for U.S. native-born teenagers far more than for native-born adults.”

But Bloomberg ignores the reality that the State Department runs a proactive program specifically to bring overseas youths to the U.S. to work. Once here, they get some of the most coveted summer jobs available.

The State Department monitors the Summer Work Travel Program (SWT) which, under the guise of cultural exchange, allows foreign-born youths to obtain a J visa, and then travel to the U.S. to work. The visa has no numerical limit.

We’re not talking about frying hamburgers. The jobs J visa holders ultimately get include internships, camp counselors, au pairs, national parks hosts and lifeguards. Check out this image here where 200 J visa lifeguards visited Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., just miles from the State Department.

Not only does SWT rob American kids of summer jobs, it’s also a cheap labor bonanza for employers. The visas have no prevailing salary requirement which means employers can pay wages lower than those earned by U.S. workers in the same occupation. Employers are exempt from paying visa holders’ Social Security and Medicare, as well as federal and state unemployment taxes. Visa holders are required to pay for their own health insurance coverage during their stay in the U.S., so employers can hire them without worrying about providing medical benefits, another significant cost savings.

SWT has been rife with scandal, most notably at Hershey where kids were forced to work long hours in the warehouse carting heavy boxes from one location to another – not much cultural enrichment to be found in that activity.

Candidate Trump promised to end the J visa to help restore jobs for American kids. President Trump, however, has done nothing.

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