Upcoming Panel: Summer Work Travel (SWT) Program

By CIS on March 3, 2012

Please RSVP to: Bryan Griffith, (202) 466-8185, [email protected]

WASHINGTON (March 5, 2012) – Late last year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered an “extensive and thorough review” of the State Department’s troubled Summer Work Travel (SWT) program, a “cultural exchange” initiative which every year brings more than 100,000 college students from around the world to fill low-wage seasonal jobs in the United States. Clinton's move followed last summer's protests by students working at a Hershey Co. warehouse in Pennsylvania that garnered worldwide attention.

The Center for Immigration Studies will hold a panel discussion on the report, “Cheap Labor as Cultural Exchange: The $100 Million Work Travel Industry”. The discussion will be held on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at 9 a.m. in the Murrow Room at the National Press Club, 14th and F Streets, NW. Admission is free and open to the public. Please RSVP to Bryan Griffith at [email protected]. A transcript and video of the discussion will be available the following week.

The report analyzes the SWT program’s rapid growth over the past 15 years into a $100 million international industry. It concluded that the SWT program:

  • has become a cheap-labor program under the guise of cultural exchange;
  • has monetized a foreign policy initiative, creating a multi-million dollar SWT industry that generates enormous profits under the mantle of public diplomacy and presses for continual expansion around globe;
  • is so dominated by the State Department’s concerns about international relations that it has become blind to the negative effects at home;
  • displaces young Americans from the workplace at a time of record levels of youth unemployment;
  • provides incentives for employers to bypass American workers by exempting SWT employers from taxes that apply to employment of Americans. Employers also don’t have to worry about providing health insurance, since SWT students are required to buy it for themselves;
  • depends upon young foreigners who must spend several thousand dollars in fees, travel costs, and health insurance. As a result, many are virtually indentured to U.S. employers and are therefore unable to challenge low pay and poor working and housing conditions;
  • is not truly an exchange program because it lacks reciprocity, since a negligible number of young Americans find overseas employment through the SWT sponsoring agencies.

Speakers will include:

Jerry Kammer, Center for Immigration Studies’ Senior research fellow, author of the Center’s SWT report and a Pulitzer Prize-winning former journalist.

Sarah Ann Smith, former State Department Foreign Service Officer.

Jeff Collins, Vice-president of Crystal Aquatics in Chantilly, Va.

Moderator: Mark Krikorian, Center for Immigration Studies’ Executive Director.