The U.S. State Department announced last week that it is restricting the size of the J-1 cultural exchange visa program to 2011 levels, and that there will be a moratorium on new J-1 visa sponsoring organizations.
The following statement is by Saket Soni, Executive Director of the National Guestworker Alliance:
“The State Department’s action shows that when hundreds of J-1 student workers went on strike this summer to expose exploitation at the Hershey’s packing plant in Palmyra, PA, it forced State to take a closer look at the routine abuse of the J-1 program.
“We can see from State’s decision that they found serious problems with the J-1 visa program, which has effectively become the largest unregulated guestworker program in America. The deception, exploitation, and threats that the 400 student workers at the Hershey’s packing plant faced aren’t the exception in the J-1 program; they’re the rule.
“If the State Department is serious about fixing the problems in the J-1 program, the clear and indispensable first step is to the shut down the sponsoring organization that deceived, exploited, and threatened the Hershey’s J-1 student workers: CETUSA. We call on the State Department to immediately suspend and revoke CETUSA’s right to issue additional J-1 cultural exchange visas, and conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into all allegations of improper conduct by CETUSA, free of interference from CETUSA representatives.”