Hotels, restaurants and boardwalk establishments suffered a serious staff shortage over the Memorial Day weekend as the US Government delayed approvals for J-1 exchange trainees under the State Department’s “Summer Work and Travel” program.
According to Washington, DC’s local NPR station (WAMU-88.5), a delay in the “approval of the J-1 visas for foreign student workers has caused a staff shortage at many businesses in Ocean City [MD].”
This is very troubling news on several fronts. First, businesses up and down the Atlantic seaboard need these foreign students to fill jobs that once were filled by American kids. Today, there are few Americans who are willing to spend the entire summer working in service jobs – they are too busy taking vacations themselves or doing something else for the summer holidays.
Second, the Summer Work and Travel J-1 visa has been a key component of America’s efforts to win long-lasting friends around the world. For decades young people have come here, enjoyed a great summer of friendship, fun and work, and then returned back home to resume school. For the rest of their lives, their unbelievable “American summer” was how they thought of the US, and our country developed friends for life through the J-1 program. With many people around the world appearing at times to hate our country, developing a cadre of international friends is all the more important.
It now appears that the J-1 Summer Work and Travel visa as a tool for friendship may be lost forever in the pending Senate Immigration Reform bill. Responsibility for the visa will go from the State Department (where cultural exchange and building networks of friends around the world matters) to the Department of Homeland Security (which is likely to greatly restrict the program and focus more on the work aspects rather than the cultural exchange), and this move could eliminate most of the long-term benefits that come from the J-1 visa.
For the summer of 2013, these J-1 students cannot come soon enough. Hopefully they will receive their visas shortly and arrive in time to help make our vacations as pleasant, relaxing and stress-free as possible.