While young people in the United States are suffering record levels of unemployment, the State Department is already hiring foreign students for summer jobs that won’t be available when Americans start looking for summer work later this year.
The Summer Work Travel (SWT) program each year admits more than 100,000 students from around the world to work at American beaches, restaurants, convenience stores, supermarkets, factories, and other establishments.
The State Department calls SWT a “cultural exchange” intended to showcase the American way of life and win friends among future world leaders.
State Department-designated sponsoring agencies team with foreign partners to recruit students, help them obtain visas, and match them with employees.
Participants and their employers are exempt from Social Security, Medicare, and federal unemployment taxes, according to Jerry Kammer, a senior research fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies.
“Unfortunately, as the program has boomed — from about 20,000 in 1996 to a peak of 153,000 in 2008 — it has denied a place in the workforce for many American young people, who are now suffering record levels of unemployment,” Kammer writes in the Baltimore Sun.
One parent who spoke with Kammer, Sarah Ann Smith, said her teenage son’s dishwashing schedule at a restaurant went from 24 hours a week before SWT workers arrived to zero hours after six foreigners began working there.
“It’s wrong to have a program that allows foreign kids to come in and take jobs that American kids need,” said Smith. “SWT is out of control.”
Fortunately, the State Department is now conducting a review of the SWT program.
“Much of our nation’s immigration policy — for both temporary visitors and permanent residents — is made with little concern for its impact on American society,” Kammer observes.
“Reevaluating SWT is a first step toward changing that.”