Don’t hinder exchange programs

To the editor:

As most Americans, I agree a solution must be found for the 11 million hapless undocumented workers who hide in the shadows. The Immigration Bill on the Capitol Hill is trying to do that. Unfortunately, as part of the political horse-trading, some worthwhile programs have been sacrificed. As a student who studied abroad through a program offered at the University of Minnesota, this news is devastating.

I have felt the value in studying abroad, and encourage this cultural exchange. Under the current Senate Bill, all J-1 student exchange programs, such as the summer camp counselors, au pairs, summer work and travel students and internship/trainee participants will be eliminated.

That is approximately 200,000 young people from all over the world, all elite university students (except for au pair), the future leaders of their respective countries. This is puzzling and disturbing as J-1 programs are the cornerstone of the U.S. public diplomacy efforts.

The Senate Bill does this by reclassifying all of these as “foreign labor” (under Subsection F, “Human Trafficking”) and as such, U.S. employers would be responsible to pay for students’ program expenses, including airfare, insurance, housing and visa fees in addition to regular stipends.

Sen. Charles Schumer’s amendment adds insult to injury by making the U.S. nonprofit sponsors post an additional $500 bond for every work and travel student (to be put in a federal fund to repair the border). No businessman will pay foreign students’ airfares and other fees to flip hamburgers or tend to young campers.

These are cultural and educational programs not “labor.” Foreign students enrich the fabric of cultural life and become lifelong friends of the United States.

This was basically a piece of raw meat thrown to the unions, which maintain that these students are stealing jobs from the Americans (nonsense), in exchange for more laxity with the guest workers, requested by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Student exchange organizations, which will be wiped out if the Senate Bill passes, were not invited to sit at the negotiation table. Why not?

Let’s hope this travesty gets corrected before/if the Immigration Bill becomes law.

Raeann Collins