Vindicated! For employment-based visa critics who have railed for more than three decades that each entering worker represents a lost U.S. job, late August provided more evidence to support their thesis. Reports from Colorado and New Jersey confirmed the obvious: if foreign nationals aren’t around to take coveted summer jobs on the J-1 visa – billed as offering cultural and educational exchange opportunities – then employers hire locally.
When President Trump’s Executive Order paused several employment-based visas that include the J-1 Summer Work Travel (SWT) visa, Colorado ski resorts panicked. Aspen Skiing Company officials, which typically hire 400 J-1 exchange workers each season, told the media that their concern over a potential worker shortage kept them tossing and turning. But to their surprise, lo and behold, U.S. kids submitted applications. Young Americans are available, willing and eager to earn extra cash by taking jobs at Colorado ski resorts in Aspen, Vail, Buttermilk and Snowmass.
On the nation’s eastern seaboard, in New Jersey, came yet more hopeful news. The Casino Association of New Jersey, Unite Here Local 54, the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority, and city and state governments announced plans to scale back J-1 employment. The coalition announced that it would begin a vocational training program to prioritize jobs for residents. As the Casino Association of New Jersey and Caesars Entertainment regional presidents said: put Atlantic City people to work first.
If those New Jersey casinos had attempted to set betting probabilities on whether the cheap labor lobby would have sued President Trump for his Executive Order, the odds would have been prohibitively high. Several ski resort operators have taken legal action to block President Trump’s Executive Order and keep their easy access to cheap labor flowing. Annually, thousands of international students from dozens of countries take domestic jobs.
The J-1 SWT program is a hurtful hoax that robs young Americans of opportunities to earn money to put toward their college educations and contribute to family incomes. Here’s a sampling of why the SWT program, often referred to as the Exchange Visitor Program, is such a scam. To begin with, the July report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics pegged youth unemployment at 18.5 percent. Given the July unemployment level, up from 9.1 percent a year ago, no intellectual argument can be made that employers need foreign-born workers.
But, naturally, advocates advance staggeringly vapid arguments that the SWT is good for the nation. Try this preposterous talking point on for size. Fariba Hicks, vice-president for Camp Counselors USA, which annually sponsors more than 15,000 international J-1s, insists that those young workers actually create jobs. Talk about not computing! Overseas workers take American jobs, but at the same time create jobs?
Nice try, Fariba!
Camp Counselors USA and similar placement agencies soak naïve young foreigners for fees that range from $1,500 to $5,000 per head. Employers under-pay their gullible international students, allegedly present for cultural exchange, but at the same time, their bosses are exempt from making Medicare and Social Security payments, a sweet deal for them. A Government Accountability Office report found that only about 40 percent of J-1s engage in cultural exchange.
Another insulting pro-cheap worker visa claim is that employers simply cannot find Americans to fill their jobs, a statement they make with a straight face, but that measures 10 out of 10 on the absurdity scale. Employers have repeatedly said, summer after summer, that they can’t find kids to work at beach resorts, national parks, community swimming pools, tony restaurants, gelato shops or amusement parks. The truth, as everyone knows, is that those are among the most sought-after teenage jobs which, had they not been routinely given to SWTs, would generate fierce domestic competition for hiring.
True vindication in the battle to put American workers first, however, can’t come until Congress changes course from its 30-year preference to hire abroad.