Thousands of Irish students flock to the US each year to avail of the J-1 Summer Work Travel Program, which allows them to live and work in the US for three months. But rising youth unemployment means some Americans are opposed to the flood of immigrants who are eager to find seasonal work.
According to the Boston Globe, last year, almost 17,000 college students from around the world worked in summer jobs in New England. Traditionally, students take up seasonal jobs in the service and retail industries.
Boston is a major destination for Irish students and hundreds work there annually, especially on nearby Cape Cod.
Last December, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered an “extensive and thorough review” of the J-1 summer work travel visa, in response to reports that many students from nations around the world were being exploited.l
Jerry Kammer, a research fellow with the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington DC says that the J-1 program favors foreign students over Americans as employers do not have to pay Medicare, Social Security, or unemployment taxes to the foreign seasonal works, who mostly work for minimum wage.
“That is a very dignified mantle for what has become a huge money-making industry that has the effect of disadvantaging many young Americans at a time of record youth unemployment,”
Kammer, who wrote a study critical of the program, entitled “Cheap Labor as Cultural Exchange”, told the Globe.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate among persons between 16 and 24 years decreased slightly from 16.4 percent in April 2012 to 16.1 percent in May 2012.
Wendy Northcross, chief executive of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce, is in favor of the program.
“Our labor pool is so finite,” she said. “We really depend on this young, intelligent worker coming in that’s anxious to learn about our culture and roll up their sleeves and work.”
Despite the unemployment levels among young Americams, some business owners say they are unable to attract Americans for many job positions..
“It’s jobs the American students don’t want to take,” said Michael Briggs, resort manager of the Chatham Bars Inn told the Globe.
“We put the ads out there, but we just don’t get any takers.”
Despite applying fror several jobs since finishing class in April, Julson Etienne, a Bunker Hill Community College student has failed to find seasonal work. Etienne (22) said he would consider a job in a kitchen or as bell boy at a Cape Cod hotel but he has no interest in washing dishes of working as a cleaner.
“I can do better than that,” he told the Globe.