Cheap Labor as Cultural Exchange: Full Series Now Available Online

The Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) report, “Cheap Labor as Cultural Exchange: The $100 Million Work Travel Industry”, is based on five months of reporting by CIS senior research fellow and Pulitzer Prize-winning former journalist Jerry Kammer.

Table of Contents

Part One: The Globalization of the Summer Job. The story of SWT’s role in international diplomacy and of the intense, sophisticated, and lucrative recruitment both of the students whose fees fuel the industry and the employers who provide the jobs.

Part Two: Young Americans 'Don't Know How the System Works'. The story of young Americans displaced by SWT, which uses international job fairs to line up summer workers months in advance. A second story tells of the culture clash at Hershey, where the legend of a benevolent chocolate baron met the harsh reality of SWT.

Part Three: SWT in Alaska: Fish Sliming as Cultural Exchange. The story of SWT in Alaska, where some 2,000 'cultural exchange' workers take jobs that used to be magnets for American college students, including 1969 Wellesley graduate Hillary Rodham, now overseeing SWT as Secretary of State.

Part Four: 'A Cavalier Attitude': The State Department's Legacy of SWT Failure. The story of the State Department’s long history of mismanagement of SWT, including its indifference to its effects on American workers. Included is an interview with Rick Ruth, the State Department’s new man in charge of SWT.

Epilogue: An open letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. CIS calls on Secretary Clinton, whose department oversees the SWT program, to reform it so today’s young Americans can enjoy the same summer work experiences as she did many years ago.

The series tells the story of the State Department’s troubled Summer Work Travel (SWT) program and its rapid growth over the past 15 years into a $100 million international industry that has spread around the globe. SWT is emblematic of a larger problem with the nation’s immigration system, where new programs are created and allowed to expand significantly without giving careful consideration to their impact on the labor market or the larger American society.

2011 was particularly turbulent for SWT. When the State Department issued new regulations in the spring, it acknowledged that some sponsors were neglecting their duties and that the existing regulations “do not sufficiently protect national security interests, the Department’s reputation, and the health, safety and welfare of Summer Work Travel program participants.” In short, the program had been infected by many abuses, leaving some participants defrauded and allowing others to be recruited by organized crime or strip club owners.

In the summer of 2011, Stanley Colvin, the State Department official who long directed SWT and other exchange programs, was quietly replaced. Then the Hershey protest brought global notoriety to the program. In November, the State Department, which had long promoted expansion of the program around the world, announced a freeze on participants at the 2011 level of 103,000. Finally, in December Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered an “extensive and thorough review” of the program.

Kammer, a former investigative reporter, tells the story of the State Department’s inability to establish proper management of SWT despite years of criticism by the Government Accountability Office and State’s own Inspector General.

The above is a press release from from Center for Immigration Studies. 1522 K St. NW, Suite 820, Washington, DC 20005, (202) 466-8185 fax: (202) 466-8076. Email: Contact: Bryan Griffith, 202-466-8185, The Center for Immigration Studies is an independent research institution which examines the impact of immigration on the United States. The Center for Immigration Studies is not affiliated with any other organization

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