A Request for Comments by the Department of State on
Exchange Visitor Program — Fees and Charges
Federal Register Vol. 78, No. 20, Wednesday, January 30, 2013; pp. 6263-6269
This response is from the Center for Immigration Studies, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit, research organization; it is the only organization in the United States focused exclusively on the impact of international migration on American systems. It is based in Washington, DC.
The State Department announcement proposes long overdue, minor upward adjustments to the fees it charges to those who use the J-1 Exchange Visitor program. This is a lightly regulated program that brings enormous benefits to those entities and individuals who use it, if not to the people of the United States.
The proposed fees should be adopted, and the State Department should immediately take steps to control this program, which is multifaceted, but which usually moves in a single direction, to bring alien workers of many kinds to the United States, under circumstances in which the foreign workers are often exploited, and in which unemployed U.S. workers are often shouldered out of jobs that they could easily perform. All of this is shrouded by both the Department's insistence that this is a foreign relations program and by the unwillingness of the press to explore something that is obscure and complex, and something that only harms voiceless Americans.
A central feature of this program is the total lack of labor standards. There are no mandatory minimum wages, and no organized protection either for the often exploited foreign workers, or for the U.S. workers who are not employed as a by-product of this program.
How can the State Department hope to prevent abuses in the program if it limits itself, as it does now, to some 13 staff members monitoring more than 1,400 separate and distinct sponsors? Fees should have been raised, and very substantially, on these sponsors many years ago.
While there are admittedly some non-exploited, truly distinguished international scholars who come to this country on the J-1 program, and who are treated quite well by the Harvards and the Stanfords of academia, far more numerous are the foreign workers who are, for example, brought to Alaska to work 12-hour days gutting fish at non-competitive wages, or, while doing less unattractive work, the underpaid au pairs brought to affluent U.S. families through another wrinkle of this program.
All of these matters have been thoroughly documented in recent publications by both CIS, and by the Economic Policy Institute, which should be considered along with the expected complaints of the J-1 sponsors who prefer no regulation at all. The pertinent documents are:
- Jerry Kammer, "Cheap Labor as Cultural Exchange: the $100 Million
Summer Work Travel Industry", Center for Immigration Studies, Washington, DC, 2011.
- Daniel Costa, "Guestworker Diplomacy: J visas receive minimal oversight despite significant implications for the U.S. labor market", EPI Briefing Paper, Economic Policy Institute, Washington, DC, 2011.
In summary, the proposed fee increases should be imposed, but only as a very small step in the right direction.
Center for Immigration Studies
Mailed to U.S. Department of State, Office of Designation, SA-5, Floor 5, 2200 C Street NW,
Washington, D.C., 20522