Michelle Sicignano, LMSW

Michelle Sicignano, LMSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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A Semester Abroad Should Not Include Being Subjected to Unfair Labor Practices

An article in the Wall Street Journal, Guest Worker Visa Troubles Visit McDonald’s, highlights a growing and well known issue regarding immigration reform, especially as it relates to work visas. The events described in the article border on Labor Trafficking, which is a growing worldwide issue. It is prevalent both in the United States and sometimes seems like a standard business practice for US business abroad.

Immigrants are lured to the United States with the promise of work, often paying large fees for the opportunity, only to find themselves caught in a human trafficking nightmare. Sometimes sparse wages are paid and housing expenses are charged and then automatically withheld, for over-crowded and poorly maintained living conditions, leaving the immigrant at the mercy of the employer. These cheap and sometimes outright slave labor practices occur routinely in every state and city throughout the US. This is often unreported and goes unnoticed. Working as domestic servants, cheap and migrational agricultural laborers, sweatshop factory laborers, janitorial workers, food service employees and other service industries, forced and slave labor practices occur in diverse industries where the only commonality is a steadily increasing devaluation of  the general American Standard of living in the name of profit.

The Wall Street Journal reports to a particular set of workers: students, looking for a semester abroad here on 3 month student visas:

“U.S. under the auspices of the Summer Work Travel Program, which the State Department’s website says provides the opportunity “to experience and to be exposed to the people and way of life in the United States.” In recent years, however, critics say it has served to supply low-wage labor for ski resorts, car washes and fast-food outlets from Colorado to North Dakota and New England.”

A student’s time abroad is supposed to be a cultural exchange, a learning experience, and an opportunity. The only lesson learned seems to be a bad taste for McDonald’s and for America. A sound immigration reform conversation cannot take place without acknowledging the boon to United States business that stems from the misuses of J-1, H-1B, H-2A, and all other work related visas.

Written by Michelle Sicignano, LMSW
SJS Staff Writer, CO-Editor in Chief

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