Irish Report: Senate Bill Would Jeopardize Summer Work Travel Program

By Jerry Kammer and Jerry Kammer on May 28, 2013

According to a story in Ireland's largest daily paper, the Senate immigration bill would put the State Department's Summer Work Travel program in jeopardy by imposing a $750 fee on employers or sponsors of the foreign students who come to the United States with J1 visas.

The story in the Irish Independent quotes former U.S. Rep. Bruce Morrison (D-Conn.) - currently a lobbyist and immigration lawyer - warning that unless the bill is changed, it could place in jeopardy the program that last year brought 7,200 Irish students to the United States.

"As it's currently written, it would have a very dramatic negative effect on the ability of this programme to work," Morrison said.

While the program purports to be a cultural exchange, critics including the Center for Immigration Studies, have called it a cheap labor program that displaces U.S. workers and puts downward pressure on U.S. wages.

The text of the bill I have examined includes a mention of mitigation fees but does not indicate their size or how they would be applied.

If the story from Ireland is correct, and if the proposed fees survive what is certain to be intense lobbying efforts to have them yanked, the legislation would reduce current incentives for American employers not to hire American workers.

By hiring foreigners instead, employers avoid Social Security, Medicare, and federal unemployment taxes. They also get access to college students from many areas of the world where the minimum wage that is typical of the program is considerably more than they could earn at home.

Here is how described the legislative situation: "The overall impact could be dramatic, including on many Irish employers with seasonal work who depend on J1 students and on Irish neighborhoods in New York and elsewhere where the students provide a major economic boost every summer."

At a time of record unemployment of American young people, a dramatic reduction of the Summer Work Travel program and its workforce of more than 100,000 foreign college students every year would be welcome to many U.S. job seekers.

The CIS report on the Summer Work Travel program, titled "Cheap Labor as Cultural Exchange", is available here.