The Associated Press published an investigative report that found that many students who come to the U.S. each year on J-1 visas, which supply cheap seasonal labor with the goal of fostering cultural understanding between countries suffer at the hands of abusive supervisors.
Problems have been rampant in the program for over 20 years, but the State Department is only now investigating the allegations and adjusting the rules for the program. J-1 visas allow foreign nationals to come to the United States in search of short-term employment and many young people pay independent recruiters to secure them the most desirable jobs, only to arrive in the U.S. and be forced to live in squalid conditions. Many times, the students are packed into small apartments with many other seasonal foreign workers. Some are even forced to work in strip clubs or are paid dismally (only one dollar an hour). In the most serious cases, some students have been funneled into sex slavery.
"There's been a massive failure on the part of the United States to bring any accountability to the temporary work visa programs, and it's especially true for the J-1," Terry Coonan, a former prosecutor and the executive director of Florida State University's Center for the Advancement of Human Rights, told the AP.
In response to the AP's request for an interview, the State Department released a statement that read: "We are deeply concerned by any allegations involving the poor treatment of participants as this potentially undermines our goal of promoting mutual understanding and goodwill between the people of the United States and the people of other countries."
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